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When can someone be liable for a dangerous property condition?

Owners and even residents, in some cases, owe a duty of reasonable care to people who come onto the property with the owner's consent and at the owner's invitation. This category of people generally consists of customers or patrons-people whose presence on the property benefits both the property owner and the visitor. Because store owners or the owners of other public places are specifically intending for members of the general public to frequent their premises, they are responsible for ensuring that the premises are safe and do not pose unreasonable hazards to those who come onto the premises. If they not comply with this duty and provide safe premises or adequate warnings, owners and residents can be held liable for an injury suffered.

When a person is injured while on another's premises, he or she can hold the owner liable for the injuries suffered. Slip and fall incidents are one of the most common types of premises liability cases, but other dangerous property conditions like a debris-filled parking lot or unsafe stairs or structures can also result in premises liability. The nature of the premises liability case often depends on the activities conducted on the premises. For example, a store owner will have to worry about the safety and stability of the flooring, the roof, stairs, outside areas, etc., while an amusement park owner would have to worry about the safety of the rides themselves.

While owners and residents are generally not liable to trespassers, there are some exceptions. Whether liability exists often hinges on whether the property owner or resident knew about the trespasser and has knowledge of a dangerous property condition. In cases where the owner or resident has created or maintains some kind of condition that poses a danger to others, he or she must give reasonable warnings about the risk of injury if he or she knows that trespassers are likely to come onto the property. Such a warning is not required, however, even for trespassers, if the dangerous condition would be obvious to the trespasser.

Source: FindLaw, "Premises Liability: Who Is Responsible?," last accessed Sept. 2, 2014

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