Mesa AZ | Personal Injury attorney Brian T. Allen discusses an area of premises liability in the following post:
The term premises liability covers a whole range of so-called “slip and fall” cases – where a person is injured because of a dangerous condition on the property of another. For example, if a person slips and falls because of a puddle of water on a store’s floor, he or she may be able to bring a personal injury claim based on premises liability. Of course, these cases are not based exclusively on injuries due to slipping and falling. They can be based on any injury that occurs due to some dangerous condition (broken staircase, loose light fixture, improperly secured bookshelf, etc.), and they can arise from injuries at residential or commercial property.
Today I wish to discuss only one type of premises liability claim: a claim brought by a business invitee against the owner of a business based on “notice of an unreasonably dangerous condition.” This is the sort of claim that the injured person might bring in the aforementioned slip and fall example at a store. To explain how this type of claim works, I will add a little more detail to that slip and fall example:
Abe is shopping for a new hammer at the Home Shop, a small home improvement store owned by Bill. As Abe is turning the corner from one aisle to another, he slips and falls, seriously injuring his ankle. The fall was due to a puddle of paint thinner leaking from a nearby shelf. Two hours before Abe’s fall, Tim, one of Bill’s employees, saw the puddle of paint thinner and told Bill about it. Bill told Tim to clean it up or find another employee to do it. Nobody ever cleaned the pile up or warned customers of its existence.
Can Abe bring a successful claim against Bill for his injuries? The answer is most likely yes. Here’s why. First, to bring this type of claim, the claimant must be a business invitee. A business invitee is simply a person who is at the business in order to do business. Abe fits within this definition perfectly – he was at the Home Shop in order to find and buy a new hammer. Surely, Abe was a business invitee of the Home Shop.
Second, the condition that caused the injury must be an “unreasonably dangerous condition.” Just about anything could cause an injury, so an individual can only bring this type of personal injury claim if the condition was unreasonably dangerous. This is business owners should only be held liable for dangers that were unreasonable. A broader, limitless standard would be unfair to business owners. Here, a jury would likely find that the puddle of paint thinner on the floor was an unreasonably dangerous condition. It is not conceivably reasonable for such a puddle to be on the floor of the public area of a store where it could cause injury to customers.
Third, the claimant must prove that the owner of the business in question had notice of the unreasonably dangerous condition that caused the injury. Notice generally means that the owner knew about the condition or at least should have known about it. In Arizona, business owners are required to use reasonable care to warn of, safeguard or remedy an unreasonably dangerous condition of which the business owner had notice. A business owner who fails to do so will be found negligent, and will likely be liable for injuries caused by the condition.
So, Abe must prove that Bill had notice of the puddle’s existence in order to prove he was negligent for not cleaning it up or warning customers about it. A jury deciding this case will find that Bill had notice of the puddle of paint thinner if it finds that one of the following is true (per Arizona’s Premises Liability Jury Instructions):
- Bill or his employees created the condition; or
- Bill or his employees actually knew of the condition (in time to provide a remedy or warning); or
- The condition existed for a sufficient length of time that Bill or his employees, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of it.
There is a good chance that a jury in Abe’s case would find that Bill had notice of the puddle of paint thinner, and thus that he was negligent for not doing anything about it. Tim, one of Bill’s employees, knew about the puddle two hours before Abe fell, and he even told Bill about it. It is clear that Abe’s case fits pretty squarely in option #2: Bill and his employees actually knew of the puddle of paint thinner, and they had plenty of time to clean it up or provide some warning to customers about it.
So, Abe’s claim would be likely to succeed. Of course, this is just a general overview of these laws and how they work. There is much more to know before a person brings a personal injury claim based on this particular area of premises liability.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Mesa AZ|Premises Liability or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Brian T. Allen at 480.461.5335 log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.