One of the unfair criticisms of personal injury litigation is the perception that an injury victim can sue no matter what. While this may be technically correct, the better question is whether injury victims can win just because they sustained an injury.
We prefer the term “premises liability” to the term “slip and fall.” Premises liability is a much larger concept that deals with all of the duties owed by the owner or operator of the premises. Note the broad term “premises,” which can apply to all types of locations like homes, businesses, sidewalks, concert venues, bars, and restaurants.
The important thing to recognize is that the duty to protect comes from the nature of the victim’s visit. Broadly speaking, the law puts visitors into one of three categories: trespassers, licensees, and invitees. The duty owed increases based upon the purpose of the victim’s visit. In the case of a trespasser, practically no duty is owed. The premises’ owner may not intentionally injure the victim, but that’s about it. Licensees are a bit different: they have not technically been invited to the premises but are allowed to be there. An example of this might be a public venue, boardwalk or sidewalk. There, the premises owner has only an ordinary duty to remove hazards or to warn about them. Also, injury victims in this category must see and avoid “open and obvious” hazards. Licensee cases are perhaps the most numerous, but can also be quite difficult to win (being second only in degree of difficulty to trespasser cases).
The final category has to do with invitees, i.e. people who are directly or indirectly asked to come to the premises by the premises operator. This may include retail establishments, businesses, hotel operators, and some common carriers, such as bus or rail operators. The legal philosophy is that if the operator stands to make a tidy profit from the invitee, the invitee may expect the highest amount of care and concern. Even so, cases like this can be difficult to win for all of the above reasons and because defects which are “open and obvious” still may not be the basis for an injury claim.
All of the above suggests that premises claims can be very challenging and depend to a great degree on the facts and nature of the injuries sustained. Perhaps more than any other case, careful consideration by an experienced personal injury attorney is necessary to determine whether you may have a winning case.