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Premises Liability

It might have been a normal day at work for Edwin Calderon if not for the wet floor.

The Texas chef was on his way to the cooler in the restaurant he worked in, Wok This Way, when he crossed a wet section of floor and fell. He immediately felt pain in his head and neck. Soon, that developed into other conditions that left him unable to work.

His employer argued that he should have seen the wet floor and that it wasn’t their fault. But a Texas court agreed with Calderon and awarded him more than $100,000 in damages based on the facts of his case. The court said the company was being negligent and was liable for the wet floor because Calderon had to use it for his job.

Mr. Calderon’s case is one type of premises liability—the legal idea that companies are responsible for any dangers that can cause injury on their premises. In Calderon’s case, he did not have worker’s compensation, but the premises liability settlement will help cover his medical bills, wages, and pain and suffering.

What is premises liability?

Property owners are responsible for what happens on their property. Dangerous conditions on site can raise questions of liability, especially if it’s due to owner neglect. Left unattended, people can slip and fall, break bones, or experience a concussion, among other injuries. Some dangerous conditions include the following:

-Slippery surfaces, such as doors, steps, and entryways

-Ice on sidewalks, parking lots, or in entryways

-Boxes, wires, hoses, or other tripping hazards in aisles or walkways

-Uneven surfaces, such as cracks in sidewalks

-Spilled food, drinks, or other liquids on floors

-Poor lighting

The laws about an owner’s responsibility vary from state to state. Missouri, for example, classifies people on another person’s property either as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. A property owner has more responsibility to an invitee than a licensee and more to a licensee than a trespasser.

Proving a case

If you’ve been injured by a hazard on another person’s property, one common argument the owner may make is “open and obvious.” In Mr. Calderon’s case, the company argued that the wet floor was obviously there, and he took the risk on himself of stepping on it. The court disagreed, saying he didn’t have a choice in the course of his job.

The property owner also has to know about the condition and not do anything to correct it to qualify as negligence. In the case of liquid on the floor, it might be difficult, as that is a temporary condition. But in the case of snowfall or ice, the owner knows that the weather condition exists and has not done anything to mitigate the risk near entrances or sidewalks.

The owner of the property may also try to place some blame on you for the injury. Most states limit liability based on fault—essentially, if you were partially or fully at fault for the situation leading to your injury, the damages will be limited based on the court’s judgment. If the court determines you were acting reasonably and that the condition of the property was out of your control, the property owner will be held responsible.

Because these conditions can change, it’s important to act quickly. Document the condition, inform the management, and seek medical treatment as fast as possible. An attorney can help you determine what the next step will be.

If you’ve been injured on another person’s property due to their negligence and dangerous conditions there, reach out to an attorney to see whether an attorney can help you seek compensation.

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