Although you have likely heard the term “slip and fall,” it is important to understand their broader context. A slip and fall is a type of injury or action that occurs on someone else’s property. The property owners can be liable for damages because of premises liability laws. These laws obligate property owners to ensure their land, home, or business is safe for those who visit it. To better understand premises liability and determine whether a property owner is liable, we will use the following fictitious scenario as a guide.
Scenario: You and a group of people are waiting in a crowded line for a ride at an amusement park. While you wait, a guardrail falls and injures your leg.
Did the Owner Have a Duty to Keep You Safe?
The first question that needs to be answered is whether the amusement park had a duty to keep you safe when the guardrail fell. The duty owed to you depends on the type of visitor you were. In Texas, there are three different types:
- Licensee: Licensees are people who have been permitted to go onto someone else’s property but are primarily there for their own benefit. The easiest way to think of a licensee is by imagining a guest attending a party. The guest has been invited into the home and is not there to work or exchange goods and services. The property owner should take the proper precautions to ensure their guest’s safety. If they discover a loose step shortly before the party starts or have a dog who is uncomfortable around people, they need to inform the guests. Had the owner discovered the step weeks or months before the party, they should have taken appropriate action to fix it before inviting people to their home.
- Invitees: This is someone who has permission to go onto someone’s property with permission but is there for a mutually beneficial reason. When we go back and look at our amusement park example, you can see how the guests there are invitees. The amusement park is profiting financially from the purchased tickets, and the guests are there for entertainment.
- Trespassers: These are people who go onto someone’s property without permission. Think of someone who sneaks into an amusement park after hours or breaks into someone’s home. Neither person acted lawfully, and the owners did not invite or allow them to enter.
Are They Liable?
Two questions need to be answered before we start to determine whether the amusement park is liable for the injury to the invitee:
- Did the owner know that the railing was unsafe?
- Should the owner have known the railing was unsafe?
Even if the amusement park didn’t know that the railing could collapse, that doesn’t mean they aren’t liable. An attorney who understands premises liability would look at several factors before deciding whether someone could have prevented your injury. Did someone check the railing and not report it? Has it fallen several times before? Was there a system in place to make such inspections?
If you have been injured on someone’s property, contact Beaty Legal, PLLC, to schedule a free consultation. We want to learn more about your injury to determine whether someone else is liable for the damages you suffered.