Duty of Care in Charleston Premises Liability Cases

A visitor to a commercial piece of property is classified as an invitee. An invitee is a person who is on the property to bestow a benefit upon the property owner. This entails a certain standard of care to be upheld by a property owner. Many other classifications of a visitor on a property can indicate the appropriate duty of care.

To determine the proper standard of care that should have been present in your Charleston premises liability case, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced premises liability lawyer in Charleston can assist you in determining the correlation between liability and duty of care in your particular premises liability case.

Charleston’s Standard of Reasonable Care

It is a varied standard in the sense that reasonable care is what a reasonable person would do under the same or similar circumstances and if the claimant and the storeowner or more accurately, the lawyer for the claimant and the adjuster for the insurance company for the store cannot agree on what is reasonable, then a jury will make that decision at the trial.

Private Property Owners

A private property owner may have a lesser duty of care in a Charleston premises liability case. For example, if a private property owner has a guest over for lunch at their house and the guest suffers an injury, the person’s guest is not there to confer a benefit. They are not going to make a profit off of this guest. The person’s duty of care is lower to their lunch guest.

A person’s duty is not to inspect the property, but if they know or should have known of the hazard, they still should remove or warn of it.

Another example is a fact scenario in which a homeowner has a faulty step on the staircase and has invited a social guest to come over. When a social guest comes over, steps on the stairs, falls, and gets hurt, and because it is not a commercial piece of property, the homeowner does not have a duty to inspect and actively look for problems. The guest of the house that fell on the steps would have to make a showing of some type that the homeowner either knew or should have known that there was a problem with the steps and they either failed to fix the steps or failed to warn of it.

Burden of Proof

That is a tough burden of proof because generally speaking, a person has to show that someone else had been hurt on the steps.

If the homeowner did not know that the steps were faulty and the guest falls through the staircase, for example, it is still not a case. This is because a person would have to make a showing that the homeowner either knew or should have known that the boards were rotten.

Commercial Property Owners

A commercial property owner has a higher duty of care to its customers than a private property owner has to a social guest.

For example, in terms of a grocery store owner, any customer that comes into the grocery owner’s store is there to confer a benefit upon the store owner. In other words, the store owner is going to make a profit off of the customer. That is the highest duty of care that exists in Charleston premises liability cases. That property owner owes a duty to inspect the premises on a regular basis.

In the case of a grocery store, for example, a common practice is to have what is referred to as a sweep log. This means that employees of the store have a duty to, every 30 minutes or every hour,  walk up and down the aisles and make sure that there are no hazards.

Impact of Duty in Cases Involving Trespassers

A homeowner does not owe any duty of care to a trespasser. Commercial property owners have the highest duty of care in Charleston premises liability cases. Private property owners owe a slightly less duty of care. They do not owe the duty to inspect their premises to look for hazards on the property and generally speaking, a property owner owes no duty to a trespasser.

If someone is trespassing, they are on the property without permission, then there is no claim under the premises liability for any injury sustained by a trespasser, however, in regards to attractive nuisance which involves trespassers that the law gives a lot more leeway for and that is children because children are considered more innocent and naïve than adults, especially with respect to trespassing.

Types of Attractive Nuisance Cases

The most common example for an attractive nuisance for a child is an open swimming pool. A common scenario is when a person has a swimming pool in their backyard and no fence around it and no way to keep young children away. If a young two or three-year-old wander on their property and falls into their swimming pool, the homeowner may be liable for the child because it is an attractive nuisance. Because the law does not impose a higher duty on a property owner to protect children trespassers as compared to adults, the individual might be liable for that child or the child’s parents or that trespasser.

If a person does not have a fence, or take some steps to protect against those types of injuries, then the insurance company will not write the policy unless a person has taken steps to prevent those kinds of accidents from happening and the best most common scenario is a fence around the pool. Contact an attorney for any questions regarding the duty of care in Charleston premises liability cases.

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