Under New Jersey's premises liability law, property owners have a duty to make their property reasonably safe, so that others who visit the property are not injured in preventable accidents. If they breach that duty, and someone is injured as a result, the property owner may be held liable for damages to the injured party. Because a property owner is expected to maintain a safe environment, they could be held liable for the injuries and damages incurred by dangerous conditions on the property.
How is Liability Determined in Premises Liability?
How is liability determined in a premises liability lawsuit? Traditionally, liability of the property owner is determined by the status of the person on the property at the time of the injury. A visitor could be considered an invitee, licensee or a trespasser.
Under the traditional rules, an invitee is an individual who was invited onto the property. Whether the invitee was invited into a residence or a business, the invitee presumes that the property owner or possessor has taken reasonable steps to assure the premises are safe.
A licensee enters a property for his or her own purpose or is a social guest. The licensee is present on the property with the consent of the owner and is considered a welcomed visitor on the property, but, traditionally, the property owner doesn't necessarily have the same duty to ensure the safety of the property that he or she would toward an invitee. Despite that, if a uniform standard of care is applied, a property owner must exercise reasonable care for the safety of both visitors and licensees.
A trespasser is an individual who has entered the property without permission. The property owner typically has no duty to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of the property if he or she doesn't expect anyone to enter it. However, if the property owner knows that trespassers are likely to enter the property the owner does have the duty to give warning about dangerous conditions. This only applies to artificial conditions the owner created or known conditions that are likely to cause injury or death.
The law of premises liability can be very complicated and these cases can turn out very differently depending upon the exact circumstances. New Jersey attorneys with experience in premises liability can help the injured or their families to understand how the law may apply to their case.
Source: FindLaw, "Premises Liability: Who Is Responsible?" accessed March 9, 2015