Premises Liability for Tenants, Visitors, or Trespassers
In some cases, a tenant, supervisor, or company is hired by a legal property owner or landowner to maintain that property and handle the screening process of potential tenants. This person or company is also referred to as a landlord. Because these "landlords" are hired to represent the interests of the property owner, their actions are largely the responsibility of the property owner.
Tenants’ Rights: Property Owner Responsibilities
The responsibilities of a property owner are complex and can vary from state to state or due to the classification of the person entering the property at a given time. Often, the responsibilities of a property owner are extended to any other person in possession of the property, including the renter or tenant.
The responsibility for making safe and maintaining a property is the duty of the property owner, landlord, or tenant depending on the situation and as such, it is their duty to periodically inspect the property to warn of and repair any dangerous conditions.
Disclosure of Dangerous Substances
There are numerous materials on a property that may be considered toxic, even though the substances were considered "safe" in the past. These substances include lead-based paint or plumbing, asbestos-based insulation, shingles and floor tiles, as well as discarded automotive fluids or cleaning supplies.
If the property owner sells or rents a property known to contain toxic substances, Federal and State laws require disclosure of these substances to the potential renter or owner.
Providing Reasonable Safety
Landlords are obliged to provide reasonable safety for tenants within the property. Often this includes installing peepholes and locks on exterior doors, adequate outdoor lighting, smoke alarms, sprinklers, railing on stairs, and fences around pools.
In addition to physical property improvements, it is the duty of the landlord to take action against tenants who consistently threaten the safety of other tenants either with verbal or physical threats or other illegal activities.
The landlord makes the choice of who may rent a unit or building; he or she is required to protect tenants from other dangerous tenants. A landlord may be directly liable for any premises liability claims regarding another tenant as it is his or her duty to reasonably see any potential for danger during the screening process. This may not include exclusion because of prison time served by a potential tenant, which in many states is considered discrimination.
Personal injury claims, especially related to tenant-inflicted injuries, are very complex as the both parties have certain protections under their rental agreement. If you have suffered an injury sustained from a premises liability accident or tenant-inflicted act, call (212) 986-7353 to speak with an experienced attorney at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP.
Visitors’ Rights: Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser?
When a person is injured on someone else’s property, it’s natural to assume that the owner of the property will be held liable for those injuries. Typically premises liability law involves slip-and-fall accidents, but there are other incidents. These include getting bitten by a dog while on the property, or getting injured in a swimming pool. In New York, determining liability can get tricky.
The landowner’s duty to protect an entrant on the land depends on how the entrant is classified: a trespasser, licensee, or invitee. The landowner’s duties are different for each type of entrant. The landowner's duty of care is highest for business invitees. Of course, the trespasser has fewest rights. In New York, there is the standard of "reasonableness under the circumstances" in any given case.
Who Is an Invitee?
There are two types of invitees - people who enter as a result of public invitation, and people who are business visitors.
Invitees are usually people the property owner requests to be on the land. Most courts recognize a broad definition of public invitation including any person on land open to the public or to the “class of the public” of which the entrant is a member. For instance, users of public parks or visitors in hospitals. Though having no specific business purpose on the land, they are invitees, and therefore entitled to ordinary care.
Ordinary care may require as little as a warning up to active efforts by the landowner to make the grounds safe. An example of the need for active effort may be when the invitee is preoccupied and not capable to guard himself even when he knows of the potential danger - an open trench should be fenced, signed, or anything else necessary to keep that distracted invitee safe under "ordinary care."
Business invitees include people on the land sharing certain business purpose with the property owner. A business visitor may include a prospective customer or an employee, for example. Though neither may make a monetary purchase, both are protected. In the case of the customer, the prospect of future shopping and purchasing defines consideration as a business visitor.
The property owner is obliged to make certain that business visitors are in a location that is safe for all members of the public. When there are dangerous conditions, the property owner is required to make all necessary repairs immediately and in the interim, clearly warn the business visitors of these conditions.
Who Is a Licensee?
A licensee is a person who is technically not invited on the property but their presence is allowed. A social visitor may be considered a licensee. A licensee is often restricted to certain areas of a property. A landowner, in most situations, is only liable for a licensee’s injury if the licensee was NOT in a restricted area AND the landowner was fully aware of the dangerous condition causing the injury.
Licensees are treated somewhat better than trespassers. However, the landowner owes no duty to inspect the premises or make them reasonably safe.
The landowner is liable only if he knows or has reason to know of a dangerous condition on the land. Additionally, the landowner must have some reason to think that the licensee might encounter the dangerous condition. An example where the landowner may not be liable would be if a licensee is directed to the restroom and sustains injury after entering a different room on purpose.
Who Is a Trespasser?
Regarding premises liability law, a trespasser is someone who has no permission to be on a certain property. Usually property owners are not liable for negligence toward a trespasser, as long as the negligence is not intentional or reckless. Courts are less likely to exact responsibility in trespassing cases with one exception - children.
Since being legally allowed on the property is one of the elements in a premises liability case, you may think that trespassers are not entitled to any compensation for being injured while illegally on someone else's property. Not always.
In some cases, the property owner was aware that the trespasser was there and did not alert them to dangers. For instance, imagine a homeowner looks out her back window and sees someone wandering around in the woods behind her house. The homeowner knows that work has been done back there, and large holes have been left behind as a result. The homeowner has two choices: she can either ask the trespasser to leave, or allow the trespasser to stay. If the property owner decides to allow the trespasser to stay, she must fully inform of the dangers on the property. Otherwise, she can be held liable should the trespasser become injured while on her property.
Regardless of privileges, children by nature are active and curious and largely unaware of property laws. Because of this, property owners are expected to maintain additional responsibility if several conditions are met. These conditions include:
- If the prospect of children trespassing is probable,
- If there is potential danger recognized, and
- If children, due to their age, may not be aware of the risk.
A very common example that fits this description is the presence of a pool in a backyard, which is an "attractive nuisance" that children are drawn to. In this situation it is the duty of the property owner to provide some added form of security, like a secured fence, to avoid the possibility of drowning.
In this case, and in any case concerning a child, the property owner will be held responsible for most premises liability. New York law treats child trespassing very differently.
Entrants’ Rights: Protection Against Third-Party Crime
In a workplace especially, the property owner has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for customers and employees. Because the perpetrators of violent crimes are often not caught and charged, victims turn to the employer or property owner for compensation of injuries sustained as a result of a robbery, murder, or rape.
The most common locations related to entrants' injuries are apartment buildings, hotels, retail stores, restaurants, and bars. The property owner has a duty to protect entrants from third-party crimes when the threat of crime is foreseeable. Examples of protecting people from third-party crime include hiring a security guard, installing gates and alarms, having locks on doors, providing safety surveillance, and finally, warning of the potential for crime in dangerous areas.
Proving Premises Liability to the Court
Proving that an injury was caused by premises liability can be difficult. First, you must prove that you were legally entitled to be on the property - maybe you were invited, or you were conducting business there. Persons injured on someone else's property must also be able to prove that the property owner(s) knew or should have known about the unsafe condition and that they did nothing to correct the situation. If the hazardous situation was repaired, but improperly so, the property owner can still be held liable.
Why Call Us?
So, why should you call us at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, if you've been hurt while on someone else's property? We could argue that it's because we've been recognized by Super Lawyers magazine. Or that we've been given an "AV" rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating for an attorney for both ethical standards and legal ability. Instead, we'll just show you some of our premises liability case results:
- $10.7 million for a client who was injured in a fall down a flight of stairs.
- $2.65 million for a motorcyclist injured in a parking garage.
- $1.75 million for a client who slipped and fell on ice.
- $1.7 million for a client who sustained a traumatic brain injury.
- $1.55 million for a client injured in an elevator accident.
These are just a few of the premises liability cases we've taken on and won, and we may be able to do the same for you. Call our NY premises liability lawyers today at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, today at (212) 986-7353. You'll be able to speak to one of our compassionate and knowledgeable representatives, and find out if you're eligible for any compensation.
Our Premises Liability Case Results
$10.7 Million - Medical Malpractice Verdict In Queens County, NY
The female plaintiff fell down a flight of stairs at work and suffered a brain herniation that compressed the brain stem, which she contended was due to delayed treatment at the hospital emergency room.
$3.625 Million - Professional Malpractice: Defective Design Injures Renter
Bill Hepner recently settled a case against an architect and a homeowner for $3,625,000.00. The case against the architect involved malpractice in design, which occurred over ten years before the plaintiff's fall.
$3 Million - Woman Injured by Collapsing Ceiling
Attorney Thomas Pardo settled a case for a client who sustained injuries when the ceiling in her bathroom collapsed on her.
$2.65 Million - Motorcyclist Thrown Off Bike in NY Parking Garage
Kenneth Halperin obtained a settlement at a mediation in the amount of $2,650,000.00 for a 43 year old man who was injured in an accident involving his motorcycle.
$2.5 Million - Fall on Defective Stair
Plaintiff sustained injuries to his knee, neck, and back after falling on a defective stair.
$2.25 Million - Tenant Injured by Ceiling Collapse in Apartment
Our client sustained a tbi and underwent a 1-level cervical fusion surgery as the result of a ceiling collapse in an apartment.
$2.25 Million - Fall Down Stairs at Work
Plaintiff sustained injuries to her shoulder, neck, and back after falling down stairs at work.
$1.957 Million - Corrections Officer Injured by Ceiling Collapse
Plaintiff was a corrections officer who sustained multiple injuries after a ceiling collapsed and fell on her.
$1.9 Million - Woman Fell Through Stairs
Bryce Moses represented a woman in her 60's who upon returning home fell through the landing of the staircase leading up to her apartment.
$1.9 Million - Manhattan Tourist Destination Fall Injury
Client was hurt in a fall while visiting a well-known tourist destination in Midtown Manhattan.
$1.85 Million - Faulty Stair Fall Accident
Client sustained injuries to her neck after falling down faulty stairs.
$1.7 Million - Premises Liability Claim Resulting in Mild TBI
Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP attorney Robert J. Bellinson recently obtained a $1.7 million verdict in Manhattan Supreme Court on behalf of our client who sustained a closed head injury.
$1.55 Million - Elevator Accident
Plaintiff, a 32-year-old account manager at a financial institution, was injured when the elevator he was in at work quickly dropped five floors and abruptly came to a stop.
William Hepner, Paula Greco
$1.5 Million - Lift Machinery Fell on Client
William Hepner and another WRSMH attorney obtained a $1.5 million settlement during jury selection on behalf of a client who was injured while on the defendants' premises to fix a security camera.
$1.475 Million - Sidewalk Trip and Fall
WRSMH of counsel David Hoffman obtained a settlement in the amount of $1,475,000 for a 54-year-old woman who slipped and fell on an uneven portion of the sidewalk.
$1.45 Million - Icy Parking Lot Slip and Fall Injury
Frank Lombardo obtained $1.45 million for a client who sustained multiple injuries after slipping and falling in an icy parking lot.
$1.45 Million - Ceiling Collapse on Bronx Resident
The defendants only offered $750,000 to settle the case. However, after the mediation, negotiations continued and Brielle and attorney Cliff Shapiro were able to ultimately settle the case for $1.45 million dollars.
Clifford Shapiro, Brielle Goldfaden
$1.3 Million - Security Guard Trips Over Elevator Weight in Building
Kenneth J. Halperin obtained a $1.3 million dollar settlement for a security guard who tripped and fell over an elevator weight while performing his rounds at a large commercial building in downtown Manhattan.
$1.3 Million - Verdict for Tenant Who Fell
We filed a suit against the building landlord for safety violations. After deliberating for half an hour, the jury awarded our client $1.3 million for past and future pain and suffering.
$1.25 Million - Injuries From Apartment Ceiling Collapse
Plaintiff sustained neck injuries after an apartment ceiling collapsed and fell on her.