Brian White | July 7, 2023 | Premises Liability
“Premises liability” and “slip and fall” are so often used interchangeably that it might be difficult to tell the difference between the two claims. Nevertheless, they are not the same—they just bear a close relationship with each other, and they often go together.
Premises Liability Claims
The owner or manager of property owes a duty of care to the following guests on their premises:
- Public Invitees: You are a public invitee if you are a member of the public on public property. Walk through a public park, for example, and you are an invitee. The owner has a duty to warn of or correct known hazards and to perform a reasonable inspection designed to reveal and correct non-obvious hazards.
- Business Invitees: You are a business invitee if you are a customer at a commercial establishment—a shopper in a mall, for example. The owner’s duty of care is the same for business invitees and public invitees.
- Licensees: You are a licensee if you were invited onto the property by its owner. The property owner must use reasonable care to protect you from any known hazards on the property. They do not have a duty to inspect the property for non-obvious hazards.
You might not be able to predict who might come onto your property. If you are a property owner, it might pay to regularly inspect the property for non-obvious hazards.
You are a trespasser if you are on the property without the owner’s permission or without authorization. For instance, a burglar is considered a trespasser. So is a school child taking a shortcut home. A mailman is not a trespasser even without the owner’s explicit permission to be there; neither is an employee of the electric company checking your meter.
Generally, Texas law does not require property owners or managers to keep their property safe for trespassers. It wouldn’t make much sense, would it, for a burglar to be able to sue you if they injured themselves while breaking into your home. There are limitations to this lack of sympathy for trespassers, however:
- One limitation is based more on common sense. You cannot “booby-trap” your property to deliberately kill or injure anyone who trespasses on your property.
- Another limitation is the attractive nuisance doctrine. You have the duty to act responsibly to ensure the safety of child trespassers who might have been attracted to a feature of your property. For example, you might need to fence off and lock a swimming pool.
- A third limitation is that the property owner must warn a discovered trespasser of non-obvious dangers that the owner knows about but that the trespasser probably doesn’t. This rule might require an owner to erect a “Beware of Dog” sign, for instance. No such duty applies in favor of undiscovered trespassers.
Intentional trespassing is a civil offense that an owner can sue a trespasser for, regardless of whether anyone is hurt.
Slip and Fall Claims
“Slip and fall” is fairly self-explanatory. Some observers like to draw a distinction between a slip and fall claim and a trip and fall claim, but this distinction is not particularly useful in a general discussion. Following are some examples of slip and fall accidents:
- You slip on a banana peel on the floor of the produce aisle at the grocery store.
- You fall down a flight of stairs when a stairway railing collapses.
- You break your hip after slipping on black ice in a department store parking lot.
- You fall when a ladder you are standing on collapses due to a design defect in the ladder.
Note that while the first three examples of slip and fall accidents might well be re-characterized as premises liability claims, liability for slip and fall accidents is not necessarily limited to premises liability. The fourth example above is not based on premises liability, even if it happened on someone else’s property. Instead, it is based on product liability.
Contact a Houston Premises Liability Lawyer to Help You With Your Claim
Whether you have suffered a premises liability or a slip and fall injury, you might have a valid personal injury claim. What you need, however, is not an abstract legal claim but cash in your pocket. A Houston personal injury lawyer can help you turn your claim into cash.
For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers
3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – East Fwy
11811 East Fwy, Suite 630-06
Houston, TX 77029
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – South Loop
2600 S Loop W, Suite 293
Houston, TX 77054