Have you been injured by a dangerous condition on the land or property owned by someone else? If so, then Colorado's premises liability law may apply to your potential claims. Although some premises cases, such as so-called slip-and-fall cases, may seem simple, in Colorado the law tends to favor the landowner and can make these cases very complicated. Thus, in assessing a potential premises liability case, it is important to consult with a Colorado lawyer who understands premises liability law. If you have been injured on property owned by another individual or company, contact Murray & Damschen, P.C.
Negligent Security Lawyers
Premises liability is the legal concept that makes the person who is in possession of land or property responsible for some injuries suffered by persons on the premises, and can include negligent security provided by the property owner. "Premises" should be read broadly to include land, property, a home or a place of business.
Is Responsibility Limited to Landowners?
The simple answer is no. Premises liability law places responsibility on anyone who "possesses" land or premises, which can include: a person or company that occupies and controls it; a person or company that has been in occupation of land with intent to control it, if no other person has subsequently occupied it; or a person or company entitled to occupy the land, if no other person is in possession. These may include owners, renters, security companies and even cleaning companies. In a landlord-tenant situation, absent some agreement to the contrary, the landlord is no longer the "person in possession" of the property. A tenant is generally entitled to possession of the leased premises to the exclusion of the landlord, and the landlord who has transferred that possession is not liable for injuries resulting on the premises. However, when a landlord agrees to make repairs and the tenants can be said to surrender their right to exclusive possession and control, the landlord may still be considered a "person in possession of real property," and thus, a "landowner."
How Does the Status of the Injured Person Impact the Potential Liability of the Landowner?
Under Colorado premises liability law, it is necessary to determine if the injured person was an "invitee," a "licensee" or a "trespasser." These terms have specific legal meanings within premises liability law and may not mean what you would expect. The landowner's duty to the injured person can vary significantly depending upon the status of the injured person.
Who Is an Invitee?
An invitee is a person who is invited to enter or remain on the property for the benefit to the person or company on possession of the property, or for a purpose connected with business dealings with the possessor. An invitation may be either express or implied. For example, a customer in a department store is an invitee, as the department store invites the public to come to the premises to purchase merchandise. A premises owner owes the highest duty of care to an invitee.
What Duties Are Owed to Invitees?
An invitee can generally recover only for the landowner's unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he or she actually knew or should have known. For agricultural or vacant land, invitees are limited to recovery for the landowner's unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he or she actually knew.
The landowner may have a duty to periodically inspect the property for the existence of hazards to invitees. For example, a grocery store may have a duty to periodically check its floors for the presence of spilled or broken merchandise, and to make sure that its products are not likely to fall from its shelves.
Who Is a Licensee?
A licensee is a person who is invited to enter or remain on the premises for any purpose other than a business or commercial one with the express or implied permission of the owner or person in control of the premises. For example, a social guest is considered to be a licensee.
What Duties Are Owed to Licensees?
Licensee may recover only for damages caused by (1) landowner's unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care with respect to dangers created by the landowner of which the landowner actually knew; or (2) a landowner's unreasonable failure to warn of dangers not created by landowner that are not ordinarily present on property of the type involved and of which the landowner actually knew. For example, if a homeowner knows that one of the steps on his or her deck is broken, but would not appear to be broken to a reasonably observant guest, the homeowner may be liable to a guest who, without notice of the broken step, is injured when the step gives way.
Who Is a Trespasser?
A trespasser is a person who goes upon the premises of another without an express or implied invitation, for his or her own purposes, and not in the performance of any duty to the owner. It is typically not necessary for a landowner to establish that the trespasser had an unlawful intent.
What Duties Are Owed to Trespassers?
In general, a trespasser may recover only for damages willfully or deliberately caused by landowner.
Premises owners are typically charged with clearing public sidewalks in front of their premises and to maintain their premises so as not to pose a danger to members of the public who are passing by on a public street or sidewalk.
Non-Delegability of Duties
The duties of a premises owner are typically non-delegable. A landowner, or someone responsible for the condition of land, cannot avoid responsibility to injured parties by delegating its legal responsibilities to independent property managers. If the landowner remains in possession, then he or she cannot escape responsibility merely because he or she contracted with a company to provide maintenance. For example, a business remains liable for the condition of its parking lot, even if it has hired a landscaping company to maintain the parking lot and to remove snow and ice. A landlord remains liable for the condition of the housing it owns, even if it has contracted with a management company to provide all service and maintenance in relation to the housing.
The court is responsible for determining whether the injured person is an invitee, licensee or trespasser. An invitee should be able to recover under all circumstances under which a trespasser or licensee can recover, and that a licensee should be able to recover under all circumstances under which a trespasser could recover.