Winter has finally arrived. But what if, heaven forbid, you are injured this winter in the snow and ice on someone else’s property? The Michigan Supreme Court issued an important decision earlier this year in the area of law called premises liability.
Here to break it down for us is Grand Rapids personal injury lawyer, Tom Sinas of Sinas Dramis Law Firm.
If you were injured because of a slip, trip, fall, or some other hazard on the premises you were on, you may be entitled to bring suit against the possessor of the property for your injuries. The injured party may be required to prove the general elements of a negligence claim. Proving liability or negligence can become complicated fairly quickly, so it’s important to consult with a slip and fall accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible.
There are four basic elements that you must prove in establishing a premises liability claim:
- That the Defendant owed you a legal duty;
- That the Defendant breached that duty;
- That Defendant’s breach of his or her legal duty was a proximate cause of your injuries; and
- That you suffered damages as a result of the Defendant’s breach of the legal duty.
The first step in a premises liability case is to establish that the Defendant owed you a legal duty, and the extent of the duty owed. Generally, a Defendant’s legal duty arises out of his or her possession and control over the property.
It is important to understand that this does not necessarily mean ownership of the property. In fact, the Michigan Supreme Court has found that, although the same individual or entity often holds ownership, possession, and control, they are distinctly different concepts. For example, if a shop owner is renting a building for their business, but it's their responsibility to take care of the sidewalks in front of their store, the shop owner will be liable instead of the people who own the building.
Once it's decided which individual owns the land and is responsible for injury, the second step is to identify what legal duty the Defendant owes to the injured party.
In Michigan, the extent of the duty owed by the possessor of land is dependent upon the purpose for which the Plaintiff was on the land at the time he or she sustained the injury. Michigan law outlines three distinct levels of Plaintiffs in premises liability cases, and the Defendant owes different duties to each. Those duties are invitee, licensee, and trespasser, and the level of care owed by the Defendant will be dictated by the Plaintiff’s designation into one of these categories:
Invitees: those who are on the premises in order to confer a commercial benefit upon the Defendant.
In general, a premises possessor is required to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition for invitees; warn of any dangers they know of, should know of, or created themselves, unless those dangers are open and obvious, and inspect the premises to discover possible dangerous conditions.
Licensees: individuals who are on the land with the express or implied permission of the Defendant.
Unlike invitees, there is generally no duty placed on possessors to inspect their premises for dangers. Typically this will include social guests at the home of the Defendant but may include other guests such as attendees of church services.
Trespassers: any person who enters onto the land of another without permission of the possessor.
As a general rule, a premises possessor does not owe any duty to trespassers on the property which are not known to him. However, if a premises possessor is aware of a trespasser’s presence on the property, the possessor is required to refrain from willful or wanton acts on the property which could cause great bodily harm or death to the trespasser.
To learn more, visit sinasdramis.com or call 616-301-3333.
This segment is paid for by Sinas Dramis Law Firm. Contents of the article provided by Sinas Dramis Law Firm Blog.