How Does a Premises Liability Claim Differ from a General Negligence Claim?
A premises liability claim stems from a hazardous or defective condition on someone’s property causing injury. A general negligence claim, on the other hand, stems from the negligent or reckless conduct of a person or entity.
For example, if you are injured in a slip and fall accident on someone’s property caused by a missing tile, broken staircase, loose handrail, or any other defective condition, then you can hold the property owner responsible for your injury under the doctrine of premises liability.
On the other hand, if you are injured at a shopping mall because a person is talking on their phone, fails to notice you, and accidentally hits you with their shopping cart, then you can hold the other party responsible for your injury under a negligence claim.
In this situation, the doctrine of premises liability is not applicable even though the accident occurred on someone else’s property. Your injury was caused by the actions of a negligent third-party – not by a defective or dangerous condition on the property itself.
Property Owner’s Duty of Care
Under the legal doctrine of premises liability, a property owner owes a duty of care towards the following categories of people:
Invitees are people who visit a property for a commercial purpose. For instance, a person who visits a retail store to buy something is an invitee, since their visit confers a commercial benefit upon the store owner. Property owners in Michigan owe the highest level of care to invitees.
Licensees are people who visit a property for a non-commercial purpose. For example, a person who visits a property to attend a social event like a birthday party or anniversary is a licensee, since their visit does not confer any commercial benefit upon the property owner. Property owners in Michigan owe a moderate level of care to licensees.
Property owners in Michigan generally do not owe a duty of care to trespassers. If a person enters a property without the owner’s knowledge or consent and gets injured, they cannot file a premises liability lawsuit against the owner. With that said, there are two exceptions to this rule. These include:
- A property owner cannot intentionally hurt trespassers by setting up a trap or creating a hazardous condition.
- If the property has a condition that might attract children, the owner has a duty to fix it. If a child trespasses into the property to use the condition and gets injured, the owner can be held liable under premises liability law.
Actual Knowledge vs. Constructive Knowledge in Michigan Premises Liability Claims
In order to establish the liability of a property owner in a premises liability case, you need to prove that they had actual knowledge or constructive knowledge of the condition or hazard that caused the accident. Our Detroit premises liability lawyers can help you gather evidence to support your claim.
- Actual knowledge means the property owner was aware of the fact that a hazardous or defective condition existed on their property and the property owner failed to take any action to fix it or to warn people about it.
- Constructive knowledge means the hazardous or defective condition that caused the accident existed on the property for a long enough period of time that the property owner should have been aware of it.
For instance, if other people had complained about the condition in the past or if the condition had caused accidents in the past, your premises liability lawyer can easily establish that the property owner knew about the condition and still failed in their duty to fix it or to warn people about it. In the case of commercial establishments like restaurants, hotels, and retail stores, your lawyer can establish the owner’s actual knowledge based on the inspection records.
In the absence of such evidence, your premises liability accident lawyer has to demonstrate that the condition existed for a long enough period that any reasonable person would have noticed it. The property owner’s constructive knowledge can be established with the help of CCTV footage, statements or testimonies from people who witnessed the accident, records that people complained about the condition in the past, and a wide range of other evidence.
Proving that the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition that caused the accident can be extremely difficult. It’s why you need to have accomplished and reliable Michigan premises liability attorneys from a reputable personal injury law firm on your side.
At The Lobb Law Firm, we have decades of experience in handling premises liability cases and have recovered millions in restitution for our clients through negotiation and litigation. Our premises liability lawyers are known for their unmatched legal knowledge and aggressive negotiation skills. We are prepared to go the extra mile and fight tirelessly to get you the compensation you are entitled to under the law.
How Does the Open and Obvious Defense Work in Premises Liability Claims?
Property owners in Michigan often use the open and obvious defense to beat premises liability claims. The defense works to prove the condition in question was so out in the open that any person of average intelligence would have noticed it and avoided it. There are certain circumstances under which a property owner cannot use the open and obvious defense. These include:
Unreasonably Dangerous Condition
A 10-foot hole at the entrance of a parking lot might be open and obvious, but it still poses a threat to the safety of everyone who uses the parking lot. In such a scenario, the owner of the lot cannot avoid liability by stating that the danger is obvious to everyone.
Using the same example mentioned above, a dangerous condition in a parking lot cannot be avoided by anyone, as people need to park their vehicles. Since people need to use the parking lot on a daily basis and at different times throughout the day, it might not be possible for them to avoid the condition. In such a scenario, the owner has a duty to fix the condition – regardless of how obvious it might be.