Pennsylvania Premises Liability Attorneys
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If you walk out of your front door, the likelihood is that you will, at some point during the day, set foot on commercial property owned by a person, a business, or the government. In fact, your residence if you rent it, is a commercial property. Other examples of commercial property are the following:
- The stores where you shop;
- The restaurants where you eat;
- The office where you work;
- The school your children attend;
- The place where you get your coffee;
- The stadium where you watch your favorite team;
- The hospital where you get treated; and
- The government office where you pay your taxes.
An owner, occupant, tenant, or non-owner resident of a commercial property owes a duty of care to individuals (who do not own the commercial property) who are at or on those properties. They must do their best to prevent and remove conditions that may cause harm to an individual at or on their real estate. Further, they are legally responsible for maintaining their property and remedying any hazardous conditions on the commercial premises.
Trespassers, Licensees & Invitees.
In Pennsylvania, the duty of an owner or occupier of commercial property to a third party entering the property depends upon whether that third party is a trespasser, licensee, or invitee.1
- A trespasser is a person who enters or stays on another’s land without the right to do so or without the owner or occupier’s consent or approval.2
- A licensee is a person who is allowed to enter or remain on the land by virtue of the owner or occupier’s consent or approval.3, 4
- Invitees fall into two categories: public or business.
- Public invitees are those who are invited to enter or stay on land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public like a park.5
- Business visitors are those who are invited to enter or stay on land for a reason directly or indirectly connected with the business dealings of the owner or occupier of the premises.6
1 See Updyke v. BP Oil Company, 717 A.2d 546, 549-550 (Pa. Super. 1998).
2 See Id. See also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 329.
4 See Updyke, supra. See also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 330.
5 See Updyke, supra. See also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 332.
Trespassers may only recover for injuries if the owner or occupant of the property “was guilty of wanton or willful negligence or misconduct.”7 That is, if the possessor of the property did something wrong. As to licensees, the injured party can only recover if:
- (a) the possessor knows or has reason to know of the condition and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such licensees, and should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, and
- (b) he fails to exercise reasonable care to make the condition safe, or to warn the licensees of the condition and the risk involved, and
- (c) the licensees do not know or have reason to know of the condition and the risk involved.8
Lastly, as to invitees, they are “owed the highest duty that is owed to any entrant upon the land.”9 In other words, there is liability to an invitee if the possessor of the premises:
- (a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize it involves unreasonable risk of harm to such invitee, and
- (b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or fail to protect themselves against it, and
- (c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.10
7 Rossino, et. al. v. R.C. Titler Construction, Inc., et. al., 553 Pa. 168, 172, 718 A.2d 755 (1998)
8 Rossino, 553 Pa. at 172-3.
9 Swift v. Northeastern Hospital of Philadelphia, 456 Pa. Super. 330, 690 A.2d 719, 722 (1997).
10 Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343.
The responsibility to remove hazards within a reasonable amount of time and create safe conditions for visitors who enter upon commercial property for legitimate purposes, whether by permission or invitation, can cover a variety of potentially dangerous conditions, including, but not limited to the following: uncleared ice or snow on walkways, structural conditions, building code violations, toxic substances, or the presence of dangerous animals.
Children on Property.
The aforementioned duty extends to children who may be trespassers, but who are attracted out of curiosity to investigate hazardous conditions on a property under the “Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.” This doctrine states:
A possessor of land is subject to liability for bodily harm to young children trespassing thereon caused by a structure or other artificial condition which he maintains upon the land, if (a) the place where the condition is maintained is one upon which the possessor knows or should know that such children are likely to trespass, and (b) the condition is one of which the possessor knows or should know and which he realizes or should realize as involving an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm to such children, and (c) the children because of their youth do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in intermeddling in it or coming within the area made dangerous by it, and (d) the utility to the possessor of maintaining the condition is slight as compared to the risk to young children involved therein.11
Regardless of the age of any commercial property visitor, they must also be properly warned of any potentially dangerous condition on a property.
In Pennsylvania, if a commercial landowner or occupier has failed to meet his or her duty of care toward a visitor and that failure to meet their duty of care represented the proximate cause of a visitor’s injury, then that commercial landowner or occupier can be held liable for the visitor’s injury. The visitor would thus have grounds for compensation under the state’s premises liability law.
Because the duty owed to a visitor, allowed or not, on commercial property varies, it can be confusing as to how an injured person will be considered under the laws of the Commonwealth. It is critical if you have been injured while on a commercial property, that you contact an attorney that can help you determine your rights and the level of duty owed to you.
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury while on someone else’s commercial property for legitimate purposes in Philadelphia or South Jersey, you will find no greater legal resource than the experienced team of lawyers at Petrillo and Goldberg. We are here to help injury victims obtain the compensation they deserve. We are available for a free consultation by telephone at 215-486-1LAW (215-486-1529) or at either our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Pennsauken or Woodbury, New Jersey offices.
11 Restatement (Second) of Torts § 339.