What is Premises Liability

Premises liability is a part of personal injury and negligence law. It concerns injuries sustained by a person while on private, business or public property that were caused by an unsafe or unreasonably dangerous condition. A hazard or risk is considered unreasonably dangerous if it is not open and obvious, has the potential to cause serious injury and was known to or should have been known to exist by the property owner.

Examples of Premises Liability Cases

The following are common examples of injuries that occur on another party’s property in which premises liability law applies:

  • Slip and fall at a grocery store or retail store on a wet or oily floor or torn carpet
  • Dog or other animal attack
  • Drowning or near drowning at a swimming pool
  • Slip on icy surface in a parking lot
  • Assault in a bar or restaurant or in its parking area
  • Injuries from toxic fumes
  • Injuries on an amusement park ride
  • Injury at a residence from slip on an object or defective step

Negligence law states that a person or entity, such as a property owner, has a duty of care to certain persons who are directly or indirectly invited onto their property. Premises law principles assume a duty as well but the standard of care varies depending on the status of the injured party.

The Standard of Care

Business Invitees

Businesses invite people onto its property to buy goods or services and who are called invitees. A business owner has the highest degree of care to such persons, which includes:

  • Periodically inspecting the premises for dangerous or hazardous conditions
  • If a hazard is discovered, immediately repairing it or adequately warning invitees of its existence and to avoid it

An owner must have had notice of the condition, either directly or by constructive notice. The latter is by either observing it or by someone informing the owner of it. Constructive notice means that it was present for a sufficient duration so that the owner should have discovered it or if it had conducted a regular or periodic inspection.

Premises liability claims against retail businesses are often hard-fought and defended vigorously. Retain a premises liability lawyer to represent you in these cases if you want to recover the compensation you deserve.

Licensees or Guests

Residence owners or apartment renters have a duty of care to persons whom they invite onto their property as guests or who are impliedly invited, and who are classified as licensees. Licensees are meter readers, salespersons, firefighters or police. The owner does not necessarily have a duty to inspect the property for hidden dangers but does have to repair or remove it or at least warn guests and invitees of the hazard if the owner was aware of the unreasonable hazard or, in the exercise of ordinary care, should have been aware of it.

For example, if a guest or licensee slips or falls on a defective step that is obviously old, then the owner may be held liable. Liability may not attach if the defect was so obvious, such as a gaping hole, that a reasonable person would have seen and avoided it.


Trespassers are breaking the law by coming onto property uninvited. This may occur if a person enters a business that is closed for the day or night or who enters a room with a sign or warning that clearly states that it is off-limits. Trespassers include persons using a motel or residential swimming pool despite not being a guest or having permission. Another example is someone who comes onto private property without the owner’s consent to fish in a private pond or to hunt game.

Ordinarily, the property owner has no duty of care to a trespasser other than to not deliberately harm the trespasser by setting a trap or by attacking the individual without warning. If the trespasser is deliberately or intentionally harmed, then the owner may owe compensation to them.

Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

An exception to the trespasser rule is if a child wanders onto property because he or she sees a swimming pool or an abandoned refrigerator.  It is referred to as an “attractive nuisance” because it has some quality or characteristic that entices someone to use or at least investigate it. If it is a child who is young, such as 7 or younger, then he or she lacks an appreciation of the risk or danger.

Also, the hazard must be in an area that the owner knew or should have known that children were likely to trespass and that the nuisance or hazard posed an unreasonable risk of serious bodily injury or death. Further, mitigating or eliminating the nuisance must be less costly or risky when balanced against the risk to a child and no measures or action were taken by the property owner to eliminate the risk.

Attractive nuisance injuries are usually tragic or cause catastrophic injuries that are lifelong. Contact an experienced premises liability lawyer if a loved one suffered injuries or was killed under such circumstances.

Damages in a Premises Liability Case

If you slipped and fell on another party’s property, were assaulted or exposed to toxic fumes or otherwise injured because of an unreasonably dangerous condition, then you are entitled to damages for your injuries and economic losses. These include:

  • Past and future wage or income loss
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disability
  • Spousal loss of consortium claim

Retain Boston premises liability lawyer Paul Tetzel. In many of these cases, you will need not only the experience of a seasoned personal injury lawyer, but one who has the resources and tenacity to overcome insurance adjusters and defense lawyers who will fight your claim at every stage. Call his office today for a free analysis of your injury claim.