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Understanding Premises Liability Principles

We invite friends over to our houses. We run businesses that we open to the public. Many of us are aware that we have some responsibility over what happens to our guests when they are on our property, but few people recognize this for what it truly is: a legal duty. We have a legal obligation to keep our premises reasonably safe for our guests, and failure to fulfill this duty may lead to liability if someone is injured on our land.

Public Premises Versus Your Home

The law broadly categorizes two types of guests: licensees and invitees. The classification of the guest will determine your legal responsibility.

Licensees

A licensee is a standard houseguest. This can include inviting a friend or a co-worker over to your place of residence, whether you own or rent your property. A host has a lesser legal responsibility towards licensees than they do toward invitees. As someone hosting licensees, you are responsible for dangerous conditions that you know about. For example, if you have a vicious dog, a rug that always bunches up and causes you to trip, or a broken stair, you have a legal obligation to warn your guest of these dangers. Keeping your guests apprised of any known hazards will ensure that you cover your bases in case a guest becomes injured during their stay at your home.

This legal duty may become more complicated in apartment complexes or other residences with common areas. If someone is injured in a common area, it will likely be the legal duty of the owner or manager of the building, and not the individual apartment owners, to identify and remedy the issue. The owner or manager of the building may then be liable if a guest is injured in one of these common areas. This may not, however, apply to things such as individual entryways or areas that the individual apartment owners are responsible for (consider: stairs to the front door, areas immediately in front of their front door, etc.), but this is very dependent on the circumstances.

Invitees

An invitee, however, requires a higher standard of care. The owner or occupier of the premises is responsible for dangerous conditions that they know of or should know of on their premises. This distinction is significant. An owner of a home has no duty to go and make sure none of the bathroom sinks are dispensing scalding hot water or check to see if there are spills in the kitchen. A storeowner, or anyone hosting invitees, does. They are responsible for conducting reasonable, frequent inspections of their premises to ensure that no new dangerous conditions have been created since the last time they checked. This is particularly important in public areas such as restaurants or grocery stores where things can fall and be tripped over, spilled and slipped on, or lights or fixtures could be broken creating a hazard.

South Carolina Premises Liability Attorneys

Whether you were injured at a friend’s home or at a local restaurant, there is a legal way to redress your injury. At Solomon Law Group, our experienced premises liability attorneys have a deep understanding of all of the players involved in these types of cases. We will determine who should be held accountable, whether it is the owners, managers, maintenance staff, employees, or individual owners of property to ensure those who caused your injury are held responsible. If you or anyone you know has suffered injury on the property of another, contact our offices to learn more about your legal rights today.

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