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The Elements of Premises Liability

Premises liability may seem like a lose-lose situation for property owners because all that has to happen is for someone to get hurt on the property to win huge sums in damages. But in fact, it is not at all easy to win in a premises liability case. According to the website of law firm Ravid & Associates, P.C., in Detroit, property owners have to keep their property free of dangers that may unnecessarily put people at risk of injury. However, there are elements that must be present in any given situation to have an actionable premises liability case.

But before going into that, some explanation of terms is needed to provide clarity:

  • Premises liability – duty of care of property owners or occupiers (possessor) in providing protection to individuals from injury; it is a direct consequence of a condition of the property which results in injury to individuals who are present on the property. This duty may extend to any public area immediately adjacent to the premises such as sidewalks and roads, and may not be delegated to a third party i.e. maintenance company to escape this duty of care
  • Possessor – a person or entity in occupation of the premises with the intention of controlling it; a possessor is not necessarily the legal owner of the premises
  • Invitee – status of an individual who enters the premises on the express or implied invitation of the possessor for business or commercial purposes i.e. shopper in a grocery
  • Licensee – of an individual who enters the premises on the express or implied authorization of the possessor for purposes other than business or commercial i.e. party guest
  • Trespasser – of an individual who enters the premises without the express or implied invitation of the possessor

In order for a plaintiff to successfully sue for compensation for injuries sustained on a particular property against a specific defendant, there are 6 elements that must be present.

  • The plaintiff is an invitee or licensee and not a trespasser
  • The defendant is the possessor of the premises
  • There was a potential for harm of an unreasonable level resulting from the condition of the premises
  • There was knowledge, or a reasonable expectation of knowledge, by the defendant of the risk of harm
  • The defendant breached the duty of care by failing to give adequate warning about the potential of danger and failing to rectify the condition that would have ensured the reasonable safety of the property
  • The defendant’s breach of duty is the proximate cause of the injury to the plaintiff

These six elements make it very difficult for a plaintiff to prove that the defendant may be charged with premises liability. In many cases, a trial results in a defense verdict because one or more of the above elements are not present. If you believe that the possessor of a property where you sustained an injury fulfills the conditions for premises liability, consult with a premises liability attorney to get legal advice. Without the expert knowledge of an experienced lawyer, you are unlikely to win a premises liability case at trial.