New Yorkers have likely heard about many situations where a person goes to a store and then slips and falls on a puddle. Others may have heard about a person who walks up a flight of stairs and leans on the railing which then gives way, sending the person tumbling. These situations raise premises liability questions such as who is responsible and what are their responsibilities.
The answers to these questions are not necessarily as obvious as New Yorkers may expect. The reason is that the answers depend on the legal category a person falls within when they are on the property of someone else.
There are three categories: invitees, licensees and trespassers. People in each category have different levels of protection.
Invitees are people who were either invited or induced to come to a home, store or other place. Invitations can range from explicit words or signs saying “please come in” to the implicit like custom or conduct. In these cases, the person who owns the premises has a duty to keep the premises safe.
Licensees are people who do not have a contractual relationship with the premises’ owner, but who are nonetheless allowed on the premises (explicitly or implicitly). A common example is a social guest. In these cases, the person who owns the premises must do enough to prevent licensees from willful injuries.
Trespassers are people who do not have permission to enter the premises. In these cases, the premises owner cannot set dangerous conditions (like traps and pitfalls). And if the premises owner knows about the trespasser or can reasonably predict a trespasser, then the premises owner needs to take ordinary care to keep the property safe.
New Yorkers hurt on the property of someone else may benefit from discussing their situation with an experienced premises-liability attorney.
Source: FindLaw, “Homeowner Liability: Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers,” Accessed April 5, 2015