Premises Liability (landlord/tenant)
Premises liability involves the responsibility of property owners to maintain safe conditions for people coming on or about the property. Until a recent favorable decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, this was one of the most difficult types of cases to get past a defense motion for summary judgment. Now, however, whiile still difficult, more such cases are reaching juries, and the most meritorious of such cases are resulting in significant verdicts.
Status on the Property: Invitee / Licensee / Trespasser.
Invitee. Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.
The invitation may be express, implied from known and customary use of portions of the premises, or inferred from conduct actually known to the owner or his authorized agent.
In Georgia, guests of an apartment tenant are business invitees on the apartment premises.
Licensee. A licensee is a person who: (1) Is neither a customer, a servant, nor a trespasser; (2) Does not stand in any contractual relation with the owner of the premises; and (3) Is permitted, expressly or impliedly, to go on the premises merely for his own interests, convenience, or gratification. The owner of the premises is liable to a licensee only for willful or wanton injury.
The owner of the premises is liable to a licensee only for willful or wanton injury. It is usually willful or wanton not to exercise ordinary care to prevent injuring a licensee who is actually known to be, or is reasonably expected to be, within the range of a dangerous act or condition.
Social guests are not invitees in the legal sense, even though they may have been expressly invited. A social guest at a residence is normally considered a licensee. However, there are exceptions in some situations where a business transaction is involved in the social visit.
Active negligence is distinguished from static negligence, and the owner must always exercise ordinary care regarding active negligence.
Trespasser. A trespasser is a person who enters the premises of another without express or implied permission of the owner, for the trespasser's own benefit or amusement. The duty of the owner to a trespasser is not to prepare pitfalls or mantraps for the trespasser or to injure him willfully or wantonly, provided that there is no duty to anticipate his presence or to keep the premises in a safe condition.
Once the owner is aware of the trespasser's presence, or should reasonably anticipate his presence from the circumstances, then the owner has a duty to exercise ordinary care to avoid injuring the trespasser by any active negligence.
Recreational Land. When the owner of a land or water area makes the property available for public recreational use without charging admission (as distinguished from a parking fee), the owner has no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others, or to give any warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity on the premises.
Criminal assaults on business premises. If a business has reason to foresee a danger of criminal assaults upon customers and other business invitees, the business may have a duty to take reasonable measures to deter, prevent or guard against such criminal assaults.
Many "negligent security" claims involve sexual assaults or shootings at hotels, motels and apartment complexes.
Most suits against businesses due to criminal assaults on the premises involve evidence of prior similar assaults on the same property.
Courts may also consider evidence that the business was aware of similar crimes in the immediate vicinity, or at its other similarly situated locations. Many court decisions deal with how similar an earlier crime must be in order to put a business on notice of the risk of future assaults. Evidence of prior crimes is generally critical to success in handling these cases.
Intensive investigation and expert testimony are generally essential in establishing foreseeability of criminal assaults and what reasonable security measures the business could and should have used to deter and prevent crime on the premises.
Victims of criminal assaults particularly sexual assaults often have psychological as well as physical injures for which they may be entitled to compensation.Laws governing dog attacks are different in each state. Typically states recognize a common law cause of action, creating liability for owners who know their dogs are dangers. Many states also have passed dog bite statutes that can create liabiity in most dog bite cases, with limited defenses available to dog owners. For example, under Michigan law, people who are the victims of unprovoked dog bites while in a public place or lawfully on the premises where the attack occurs are almost always able to establish liability on the part of the dog owner. It doesn't matter if the dog has never bitten another person -- there is no "free bite rule" in Michigan, and dog owners can be liable the very first time their dog bites somebody.
People may be injured by dogs without being bitten. For example, dogs can cause injury with their claws, can knock people ove, and can upset bicycles. If injured, these people may also have the right to recover damages from a dog owner.
If You or Your Child are Bitten by a Dog:
Try to identify the dog. If the dog may have rabies, it is important to receive appropriate vaccines.
Don't argue with the dog owner. Many dog owners simply won't believe that their dog would bite at all, or if not severely provoked. Arguing doesn't do any good.
Don't sign papers or make recorded statements. It is possible that the dog owner, property owner, or their insurance company will try to get you to make a statement, in writing or on tape, about what happened. Their goal is probably to get you to make statements which help them avoid their liability for your injuries. If they approach you, you should consider having a lawyer assist you.
Make a report of the incident to the police. The police will investigate the circumstances of the dog bite, and will make a report which may help establish what happened.
Seek medical care. Dog bites can involve puncture wounds from fangs, which can easily become infected. Infection can occur even with scrapes and abrasions. An infected wound can result in a worse scar, and may also cause serious complications and side effects. Also, if you wait to get treatment it may not be possible to suture your wounds, increasing the severity of scarring and possibility complicating your recovery.
Consider Consulting Forrest B. Johnson & Associates. A lawyer can help you get the compensation you are entitled to receive for your financial losses as well as for your pain and suffering. Even if an insurance company offers to write you a check, it can help to have a lawyer review the proposed settlement. Insurance companies are notorious for making low settlement offers to unrepresented individuals. An attorney should be able to identify and preserve evidence about the dog attack, to negotiate with the insurance company, to identify any additional people beyond the dog's owner who may also be liable for damages, and to take any additional steps necessary to obtain a fair outcome.
Call us today at 404-758-9111 or toll free at 1-800-632-6026 to schedule your free consultation.