If one falls by failing to avoid an obvious hazard, there may be no right to sue. However, when defects are hard to spot, property is poorly lit or other hidden hazards cause you to fall, property owners and occupiers may be held responsible for injuries resulting from a failure to maintain their premises in a safe condition.
When filing a premises liability case, it is important to understand that not all plaintiffs are treated equally. The degree of care owed to injured victims varies with the circumstances under which they entered the property in the first place.
If you are invited or permitted to enter the property, the property owner of occupier must use reasonable care to see that areas you may be expected to use are safe or warn you of known dangerous conditions that cannot be reasonably discovered by you.
If you are not invited or serving the interests of the owner or occupier of the property, but simply permitted to be there to serve your own interests, the property owner or occupier must refrain from willfully injuring you, but has no duty to remove hazards or provide for safety.
Notice of Defect
Property owners are not strictly liable for all injuries occurring on the premises. Even where business or social guests suffer injury, owners, occupiers and landlords are not considered to be insurers of safety. Since they may only be held liable for negligence and failure to exercise reasonable care, even proving the presence of a hazardous condition is not enough to win.
To establish premises liability, injured guests must show that those responsible for maintaining the premises had sufficient notice of the hazard but failed to take reasonable safety precautions. For example, if a Kroger shopper slipped on olive oil from a leaking container in Isle 3, he or she must prove that the grocery store either knew about the leak with enough time to remove it before the accident or that the store should have discovered this hazard prior to the accident. If the leak just started prior to the accident, the store will argue that it lacked sufficient notice and did not breach any duty of care toward the injured customer.
These cases typically turn on such factual questions. It is not always easy to produce sufficient evidence of notice on the part of the store. It is therefore particularly important to conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances as soon as possible following such an accident.