Premises Liability

People who own or occupy property have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for visitors. When guests are injured in an accident, they may be able to seek compensation for their injuries under the theory of premises liability. 

The South Carolina premises liability laws protect victims of all types of accidents, including slip and fall incidents in stores, trips over debris in gas stations, injuries caused by improperly stacked merchandise, swimming pool drownings, amusement park accidents, and even injuries caused by criminals on the property. 

The extent of a landowner’s legal duty varies according to the circumstances. For instance, a business has more of an obligation to keep its premises safe for customers than a homeowner does to protect trespassers from accidental injury. 

What is a premises liability claim?

Premises liability laws hold business owners, property owners, and managers in South Carolina responsible if someone is injured on the property due to negligence in maintaining the premises. Property and business owners have a legal obligation to ensure that their property is reasonably safe for visitors and other legitimate guests and they can be held liable for harm that results when they are not. People injured on someone else’s property may be entitled to receive money through a premises liability claim to cover medical bills, lost wages, suffering, and other losses.   

What are the types of property visitors when it comes to premises liability claims?

  • Business Invitees. Businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, discount warehouses, home improvement centers, swim clubs, amusement parks, and movie theatres, owe the highest duty of care to patrons on their premises. This is because businesses invite the public onto their property to buy merchandise or pay for services that benefit the owner. Visitors to businesses are called “invitees,” and businesses are legally required to keep their premises reasonably safe for them. This means that they must often be on the lookout for potential dangers to protect invitees from hidden risks. Even when a business owner does not know about a dangerous condition, if they could have discovered it through reasonable inspection, they might be held liable for any resulting injuries. 
  • Social Guests and Licensees. Property owners and businesses have a less imposing duty when it comes to keeping their property safe for social guests and licensees. Landowners and businesses must warn licensees and social guests about any known hidden dangers on the premises. For example, if a host invites people to their home, and there are nails on the driveway, they may be liable if they fail to warn a guest who steps on the sharp object and is injured. A similar duty of care is also owed to a licensee—someone who is on the property legally, but primarily for their own benefit rather than benefit of the owner.  
  • Trespassers. Although a property owner owes very little duty to adult trespassers, if a child is attracted to the property by a pool or playground equipment and suffers injuries, the property could be held liable. However, taking reasonable steps to protect child trespassers from getting hurt can shield a property owner from liability.

What is the difference between premises liability and personal liability?

Personal liability and premises liability are two forms of negligence but are different legal constructs. Personal liability is relevant when an individual personally does something or fails to do something that injures another party. Premises liability, in contrast, is based on where the injury occurred. In the case of premises liability, the responsibility is on the property owner, business, employee, or manager, not necessarily the person that might have actually created the unsafe conditions. 

Can you sue a property owner for negligence?

Premises liability is considered a type of negligence claim. To demonstrate that a property owner should be liable for harm, the injured party must show negligence, which requires establishing three things:

  1. The defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party,
  2. The defendant violated that duty of care, AND
  3. That violation caused the injury/damage

 

The exact duty a landowner has depends on the legal status of the visitor, which is discussed directly above.

What are common premises liability claims?

Some of the most common premises liability claims involve:

  • Grocery and Retail Stores. The high volume of traffic and quantity of merchandise moved make it likely that shoppers could be injured by falls on slick surfaces, trips over hazards that are hard to see, or products that are improperly placed. Store managers know this and they should have employees watching for dangers with a plan to take swift action to prevent harm to customers. When managers or employees fail to act responsibly and a shopper is injured, the store can be held liable.
  • Hotels and Apartment Complexes. Property owners are obligated to ensure that hallways have enough lighting, that stair treads and handrails are secure, that doors function properly, and that guests and tenants can use the premises safely. Failure to maintain the surface of floors, parking lots, and other spaces can lead to serious injuries. Property owners or managers may be held accountable if they do not fulfill their obligations to those on the premises.
  • Amusement Parks. Amusement parks owe invitees the highest standard of duty. Amusement rides injure thousands of people every year. Water parks are also very dangerous because water can pool in unintended places and lead to devastating slip and fall accidents. If you have been injured at an amusement park, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether to file a negligence suit against the park or its employees, or whether to sue the manufacturer of a defective ride. Even if you have signed a waiver or disclaimer, the park may still be held liable for injuries in many cases.
  • Negligent Security. If you were on someone else’s property and were injured by criminal activity, such as robbery, rape, assault, or battery, you may have a claim arising from negligent security. To bring a successful case, a victim must demonstrate that the landowner or occupant failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent criminal activity such as neglecting to replace burned out lighting or repair a broken security gate. It is critical to prove that the crime was foreseeable.
  • Swimming Pool Accidents. Private and public pool owners may be liable for injuries in certain circumstances, though they will not automatically be held liable for any injury that occurs on site. The standard of care owed by the pool owner could depend on whether the injured person is an invitee, social guest, or trespasser.

Columbia Premises Liability Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Victims Injured on All Types of Property

If you have been injured in an accident at a retail store, mall, gas station, hotel, amusement park, friend’s house, or any other type of property owned by another, our legal team could investigate to determine if you are eligible to recover compensation. To learn more, contact the experienced premises liability lawyers in Columbia at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. today at 803-674-4977 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

With offices located throughout South Carolina, we represent client in Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, Newberry County, and in Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Chapin, Rock Hill, Aiken, Sumter, Newberry, Florence, and Spartanburg.