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Premise Liability Under The New Normal: Guide For Business Owners

People are starting to settle in the new normal. A lot of them haven’t been milling and walking around malls and supermarkets, park and stores until recently. Some have started strolling along sidewalks and small spaces, the thing they weren’t able to do during the shelters-in-place. It’s to be expected that not a few of them might figure in a slip, trip, or fall incident in a store or supermarket somewhere.

If you own a store or some other business, you better watch for potential dangers and hazards. People come and go to your place every day; it’s not unlikely for someone to suddenly slip and suffer injuries one of these days on your premises. By then, you’ll have someone filing a premise liability suit against your business.

If you already have one, you might want to consider checking out or other similar sites. Here’s a bit of a guide on premise liability suits for business owners.

Premise Liability Under The New Normal: Guide For Business Owners

Premise Liability

Premise liability refers to a kind of tort action wherein the person who got injured in the premises of a certain house, property, building, or location may claim compensation from the person who was liable for having caused the injuries. There are many different kinds and types of premise liability tort action. Among the most common is a slip and fall injury claim.

When a person accidentally slips while walking on the premises of another person’s house or property and suffers an injury, the person who was injured may sue the owner of the home or the property and claim compensation. It is an example of a premise liability tort action called slip and fall injury claim. But the injured person has to meet certain requisites and prove to the court for the suit to prosper. First is the reason for the person who was injured for being on the property. The second is to identify the person responsible for the hazardous condition on the property which caused the incident.

Your Reason For Being There

The first thing that has to be considered by the jury in a premise liability tort action is the reason of the injured person for being there in the place where they slipped and fell, and got injured. Idaho law on premises liability states that the property owner owes a certain duty of care to persons to the person who goes to your property. This duty of care subsists while the said person is on the premises of your property.

It’s important for the court to determine the visitor’s reason for being there on the property. The different reasons why people went to another person’s property will determine the rights of that person to sue and claim for compensation. Your duty of care to the changes from one category to another. Here are some of the common categories of persons based on why they’re staying, standing, or walking on another’s property.

In the case of Ball v. City of Blackfoot, 152 Idaho 673, 273 P.3d 1266 (2012), the court affirmed that the duty of the landowner or property owner to the injured party would have to be determined by the status of the injured party while they were within the premises of the property. The injured persons could fall under the categories of invitee, licensee, or trespasser.

Invitee - An invitee is a person who was either invited or permitted by the landowner or property owner to come to the premises of the property. The landowner or property owner has the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. The owner also has to warn persons considered an invitee to the property, about any concealed or hidden condition that may pose as a potential or immediate danger to anyone.

In the same Ball v. City of Blackfoot case, Idaho courts defined an invitee as someone who goes into a property or business premises for a business purpose. The term business purpose here is given a broad interpretation. It can include going to their workplace or commercial business purpose such as buying something from a grocery store.

It could be non-commercial such as to visit a relative confined in a hospital. In all instances, the property owner has the duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. They should also warn the invitee of any concealed or hidden conditions which pose a potential danger or hazard.

Licensee - A licensee is a person who has been permitted to be present in the premises of the land or the property. The landowner or property owner has the duty to tell the licensee about any dangerous conditions on the property or anything going on there that might pose as a danger.

A licensee is defined in the same case of Ball v. City of Blackfoot as a person who goes into another person’s property not for the business owner’s benefit but their personal purpose. An example of this are persons who go to another person’s home as a social guest.

Trespassers - Under Idaho law, any person who goes to any land or property for recreational purposes without the permission of the owner is considered a ‘trespasser.’ Property owners don’t have any duty of care under Idaho law towards any person considered a trespasser.

Business or property owners generally don’t have a duty of care to trespassers. But in the 2008 case of Boots v. Winters, 145 Idaho 389, 150, 179 P.3d 352 (Ct. App. 2008), the Idaho court held that the landowner or property owner still has to refrain from willful or wanton acts that would cause injury or damages to a trespasser.

Premise Liability Under The New Normal: Guide For Business Owners

Who Can You Hold Responsible

The other element in a premise liability tort action is a liability. The person who suffered injuries can only recover compensation if the liability of the person responsible for the dangerous condition or event can be proven. It’s not always that easy to prove liability. Liability can be attributed to either the landowner or property owner or to the person himself who suffered the injuries.

To be able to attach liability to the landowner or property owner, the person who was injured has to prove the following elements:

That the owner or any employee of the business - if it was a business - caused the presence or existence of the dangerous condition on the premises. This condition could be a spill such as a puddle of water, a slippery portion on the floor, a protruding torn spot, a worn spot that has become slippery, or any dangerous item or surface that could cause any person to slip, trip, or fall.

That the owner or any employee of the business already knew of the presence or existence of such a dangerous condition, but they didn’t do anything to remove such hazard or danger.

That the dangerous condition or event was something that should’ve been known or would’ve been discovered and immediately replaced, repaired, or removed by any reasonable landowner or property owner.

The third scenario is the most common situation encountered by lawyers. But it’s a bit hard to prove because the phrase ‘should have known or would have been discovered’ poses quite some difficulties for the person who was injured.

In cases involving the third scenario, the courts would have to resort to common sense to resolve it. They usually have to contain their findings to whether or not the property owner or business made sure they did everything reasonably necessary to maintain the safety of the premises.

The landowner or property owner can also be held liable if they had a duty to tell visitors about any hidden or concealed hazards or dangers, but they failed to do so. But the injured person has to prove that the landowner’s failure had a substantial contribution to the accident.

However, if the landowner or property owner does not owe the injured person any duty of care or doesn’t have the legal obligation to disclose any concealed danger or harm, then the person injured would be liable for their injuries. They’d also be responsible for any injuries suffered by other people or if there was any damage to other people’s property.

It’s also possible for injured persons to have total or partial liability for the incident if they weren’t very careful while they were on the premises. For example, if they were running around even though they already saw that it was raining or that the ground was already wet and slippery. They could incur either partial or total liability for the incident and for the injuries they sustained.

Types Of Premise Liability Suits

Even though premise liability is a sub-area of Idaho Tort Law, there are still different kinds of premise liability cases. It is because there are many different kinds of scenarios that arise out of the negligence of landowners or property owners, and more so from the contributory negligence of their guests, visitors, and even trespassers.

Some of the most common types of premise liability cases are slip and fall injuries. It often happens when there are substances or objects on the floor which cause the plaintiff to slip, trip, or fall and, as a result, get injured. Another type of premise liability is drowning though it’s not a very common occurrence. Someone who was attacked by dogs and slipped somewhere while fleeing could stand as a plaintiff in a premise liability suit.

Comparative Negligence

The basic idea of comparative negligence is based on the notion that there’s someone else who’s partly to blame for what happened. This someone could be the person who got injured. The state of Idaho recognizes and applies the concept of comparative negligence in evaluating the negligence of all parties responsible and computing for the compensation.

The effect of comparative negligence is that it would reduce the amount of monetary compensation that the person who was injured would be able to recover. Idaho is a comparative negligence state. It means that the amount to be deducted from the compensation and damages awarded to the plaintiff would be commensurate to the percentage or part of the blame that the plaintiff assumes. Idaho plaintiffs who assume 49 percent or less of the blame for what happened may still be awarded compensation and damages.

In other states which follow a pure contributory fault paradigm, plaintiffs who assume or admit to even just a fraction of negligence would be barred from recovering any compensation or damages. There are states which follow a pure comparative negligence system. In a pure comparative negligence state, the plaintiff would still be allowed by the courts to recover even though they’re willing to assume a majority of the blame for what happened.

Idaho is a comparative negligence state but not a pure one. Courts will permit plaintiffs to recover compensation and damages even though they assume being partly responsible for the blame or negligence which led to what happened. But the plaintiff’s negligence shouldn’t be more than 49% of the total negligence. It means, for example, that if the plaintiff is willing to assume a third (33%) of negligence, the compensation would be deducted by 33%. If the award is USD$100,000, the plaintiff would receive USD$67,000.

Statute Of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a deadline for suing the person responsible for the injuries or damages suffered by the plaintiff. It requires plaintiffs to file their lawsuits within a strict period. The plaintiff may only file their lawsuit and be heard in civil court within this time.

The statute of limitations is Idaho Statutes 5-219. This section requires plaintiffs to file their premise liability lawsuits within two years. Plaintiffs have only up to two years to ask Idaho civil courts for remedies, compensation, and award of damages for any kind of personal injuries, which they may have suffered for any unsafe conditions on somebody else’s property or business premises.

On the other hand, the statute of limitations for damages to property is three years. Persons who suffered damages to their property but didn’t have personal injuries would have up to three years within which to sue the responsible party. This time limit is provided in Idaho Statutes 5-218. Plaintiffs would have to file their lawsuit for replacement or repair of their damaged property within this three-year time limit.

Store Owners’ Duty Of Care Affirmed

There’s this relatively recent case of Brooks v. Walmart Stores, Inc., where the Idaho Supreme Court said that Walmart stores should be held liable for the injuries of the plaintiff who slipped inside their store while checking out washing machines for rent. Walmart raised the defense that they couldn’t have known that the washing machines they rented out would leak water, causing puddles to form on their store premises. Some were returned with water in them and leaked.

But the Idaho Supreme Court said that the jury should have at least been permitted to consider whether Walmart was able to do everything required of it as part of its duty of care to people who go to their stores. It affirms the holding that property owners or business owners should take extra precautions and always ensure that their premises are reasonably safe for guests and visitors. They should check their premises now and then for any potential dangers or hazards which may cause someone to slip, trip, or fall.