Property owners’ responsibility for guest safety

In the state of New York, property owners have a legal obligation to maintain their premises and protect their guests from being injured by avoidable hazards. Based on their reason for visiting the property, guests are considered invitees, licensees or trespassers. Depending on which category of guest they are dealing with, property owners owe a certain degree of responsibility for the guest’s safety.

Property owners owe the highest level of care to invitees on their premises. An invitee on a property is a person who was invited to the property for a business reason. Invitees could be customers at a retail store, guests in a dining establishment or job applicants. In order to care for invitees properly, property owners are expected to correct known hazards on the property and also look for unknown hazards so that they can be corrected as well.

A property owner has less responsibility to care for a licensee who is using their premises. A licensee is someone who is using a property for personal reasons or for a social function. While a property owner must protect a licensee from known hazards on the property, the property owner does not have to inspect the property for unknown hazards. A trespasser on a property is in most cases not owed any level of care by the property owner.

Guests who have been injured by a hazard on a property may have a case for filing a premises liability claim. Some premises liability claims involve allegations of negligent maintenance by a property owner such as failing to clear an icy walkway or failing to properly light a parking lot. While determining whether to file, a prospective plaintiff might wish to seek help from an attorney in order to ensure that the property owner’s liability for the injuries is well-established.

Source: Findlaw, “Property Owners’ Legal Duty to Prevent Injury“, November 26, 2014