Dallas / Fort Worth Premises Liability Attorney
Are you in need of a premises liability attorney in Dallas? Premises liability refers to accidents caused by a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition on another person’s premises. Examples include slip and falls, trip and falls, injuries caused by falling objects, and so on. Generally speaking, a property owner has a legal duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Additionally, a property owner may also have a duty to make routine inspections of the premises and make reasonable efforts to warn of, and remedy, any dangerous conditions.
There are three (3) legal categories of premises liability cases: business invitee, social invitee, and trespasser.
The first category is a “business invitee.” A business invitee is someone who visits the premises for the mutual benefit of the parties or for other business purposes. A simple example is when a customer visits a place of business such as a supermarket, department store, or restaurant. Additionally, a business invitee may also include a landlord – tenant relationship since the parties both gain a mutual benefit from the use of the property. As a business invitee, the customer is owed the highest duty of care by the property owner. The property owner has a legal duty to keep the premises in reasonably safe condition. That is, the property owner is required to make routine inspections of the property and to warn of, and remedy, any unsafe conditions. However, the property owner is not automatically liable just because an accident occurs on the premises. The property owner’s liability will depend upon several circumstances including the nature of the dangerous condition, how long the condition existed before the accident, and whether the condition is something that the property owner was, or should have been, aware of. For example, let’s assume a customer is walking down the isle of a grocery store and suddenly slips and falls due to water on the floor. If the water was present because of some random spill by another customer, it would be difficult for the injured customer to prove that the store owner is liable for the customer’s injuries unless the customer can prove that the spill was present for a long enough period of time that the store owner should have discovered it. On the contrary, if the water was on the floor because of a leaking refrigeration unit or because the area was recently mopped, then a better case could be made for the store owner’s liability since the owner would be more likely to know of the circumstances surrounding the presence of the water.
The second category is a “social invitee.” A social invitee is one who is on the premises as the guest of the property owner in which business is not involved. This would include party guests and friendly visitors. Here, the property owner is liable only for dangerous conditions in which the owner had actual knowledge. There is no general duty to inspect the premises. Likewise, it becomes more difficult to hold a property owner liable for injuries resulting to a social guest unless you can prove that the owner had actual knowledge of the condition and failed to warn of or remedy the condition.
The third category is a “trespasser.” A trespasser is simply someone who is on the property without the owner’s consent. A property owner owes the lowest legal duty to a trespasser. The property owner is liable to a trespasser only for conditions in which the property owner purposely or intentionally causes harm without legal justification.
Other premises liability cases include dog bites and animal attacks. A property owner has a legal duty to keep any animals on the premises properly confined and under control so as not to cause harm to others. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “one free bite” rule in Texas. The rule is that the property owner, or person having control of an animal, must exercise reasonable care to contain and control the animal. For instance, if a homeowner leaves a gate or front door open and a dog to escapes and attacks a young child, that homeowner may be liable even if that dog has never attacked anyone in the past. The focus is on the degree of care exercised by the property owner and not necessarily behavioral history of the animal. Of course, if the animal has a history of aggressive behavior, then the property owner would have to be even more careful in the confinement and control of the animal.