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What hazards is a property owner responsible for?

Nearly everyone in Miami walking through a grocery store or department store has seen the yellow caution signs warning customers of wet floors, often while employees mop floors, clean a spill or a store addresses a leaky roof. This is done to not only protect a customer from potential hazards at a store, but also to protect the property owner or store management from a premises liability lawsuit.

Determining liability following an injury or death on someone else's property is not always easy, and a few factors must be taken under consideration by the courts before a ruling can be made. First, the courts will determine the legal status of the visitor. What does this mean? One must first as the question why is the person on someone else's property? An invitee is the term used for someone such as a customer, who is on the premises. A licensee, such as a mail courier, may be on the property to provide a service. A social guest is considered as anyone who is a "welcome visitor" to the property, and a trespasser is someone who enters property without the right to do so.

Next, the condition of the property will be considered, as well as the circumstances of the victim entering the property. For both invitees and licensees, it is the property owner's responsibility to assure that potentially dangerous conditions are addressed or that a warning has been given for potential hazards.

The courts will also consider the purpose of the property; for example, a company's quarry or mine has inherent dangers that cannot be fully protected, however fencing or netting and signs warning trespassers of the dangers may be sufficient. However, if it can be proven that a property or store owner failed to exercise reasonable care to protect the safety of the visitor, they may be considered negligent.

Source: FindLaw, "Premises Liability: Who is Responsible?" Accessed Feb. 28, 2017

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