When someone gets injured on another person’s property, he or she has the right to pursue a negligence claim against the owner. The theory of recovery upon which the plaintiff will usually rely is known as premises liability. If you’re a business owner, it’s important to understand how these cases are decided in South Carolina. The civil litigation attorneys of Gaffney Lewis, LLC, are ready to help.
Premises liability generally covers injuries that occur on someone else’s property, including businesses. South Carolina laws require property owners to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe manner for visitors. In order to prevail on a premises liability claim, plaintiffs are required to prove that a business owner:
- Did something on the property that created a hazard; or
- Knew, or should reasonably have known, that a hazard existed on the property, but did not correct it.
Slip and fall cases are common examples of premises liability lawsuits. The owner, or an employee of the owner, might mop the floor and fail to warn customers about it being wet. If someone slips and gets hurt, there’s a good chance the business will be sued.
Another example is where a business has defective steps on the premises. Even though the owner didn’t take direct action that caused the steps to be hazardous, if it can be proven that he or she should reasonably have known about it, that knowledge can give rise to liability in a lawsuit. A business owner cannot turn a blind eye to obvious hazards on its property and is responsible for taking reasonable measures to identify hazards, including warning visitors and addressing the hazard expeditiously.
When considering a premises liability case against a business, the injured person’s status must be determined. Visitors to a business fall into four basic categories, each with corresponding duties owed by the business:
Invitees. These are people who are on the property with the express or implied permission of the business owner. In a case like this, the duty owed by the owner is one of reasonable care, which means keeping the property free of reasonably-foreseeable dangers. The owner is also obligated to warn the invitee of hidden dangers it knows or should know about. An invitee enjoys the highest protection under South Carolina premises liability law. A good example is a customer at a retail store.
Licensees. A licensee is someone who has the privilege of being on the property with the consent of the owner. They are on the property for their own benefit, and unlike an invitee, are not necessarily requested to be there. The owner must warn the licensee of hazards it knows about but is not required to search out and discover dangers or to otherwise make the premises safe. Someone who stops by your property to ask for directions is a licensee.
Adult trespassers. These individuals are owed the lowest duty of care in premises liability law. The owner of the property is required not to intentionally injure a trespasser, but otherwise owes no duty.
Children. Children, even child trespassers, enjoy a different set of protections that invoke the concept of attractive nuisance. An attractive nuisance is something that can attract a child to enter the property without your knowledge and get injured. Unfenced swimming pools are classic examples of an attractive nuisance. They require minimal effort to keep a child out versus the potential risk of injury, which is why the law holds owners liable if a child gets hurt.
As you can imagine, premises liability cases are highly fact-specific and no two cases are ever the same. Not only will the outcome turn on what type of visitor was injured, but the owner’s actions (or inaction) leading up to the injury will be critically examined. No matter what kind of premises liability case your business is facing, the potential damages could be substantial. A plaintiff may claim medical bills, lost wages, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and much more.
That is why it is important to have the premises liability defense team at Gaffney Lewis, LLC on your side. At our firm, your premises are our business. Working from offices in Columbia and Charleston, our dedicated trial lawyers will work with your business to gather evidence, investigate the facts, and develop a strategy that is tailored to the unique needs of your business. Contact us today to get started on your case.