People often call us after being injured or in an accident on the property of another and ask whether they have a potential claim against the property owner (e.g., a business or store owner or a landlord).
Typically, such injuries involve the classic “slip and fall” scenario where someone’s back or neck is injured from hitting a hard floor. Other scenarios include falling off a broken stool or chair or being injured because of the negligence of an employee. We recently successfully settled a case where an individual broke his wrist and three ribs falling in the common area of an apartment complex.
****Business Owner Liability and Ohio Law: Occupiers and Invitees****
Under Ohio law, business customers are generally referred to as “invitees,” and business or property owners are referred to as “occupiers.” If an invitee has a claim against an occupier, it is typically one for “negligence.” (It is important to point out that tenants often call us with similar claims against their landlord. Generally speaking, tenants and invitees are treated “substantially similar” under Ohio law.)
Business Owner Negligence
There are four elements or things that an occupier has to prove to be successful in a negligence claim: (1) duty; (2) breach; (3) causation; and (4) damages. That is, the occupier must owe the invitee a duty to protect against the injury he/she suffered; the occupier must have breached (or failed in) that duty; the breach must be the “proximate” cause of the harm suffered; and there must be actual harm or “damages.”
Duty and Breach
The duty and breach elements are the two most hotly contested elements in claims brought against occupiers.
As a general rule, an occupier owes a business invitee a duty of “ordinary care” to maintain his/her property in a “reasonably safe condition.” What is “ordinary care” and what is a “reasonably safe condition” can be a very subjective determination. An occupier also has a duty to warn invitees of “unreasonably dangerous conditions” of which it has knowledge or should have knowledge. Again, what is “unreasonably dangerous” and when an occupier “should” have knowledge of a condition can be very subjective.
If you have been hurt at a store or on land owned by another person, it is important to consult with a competent premises liability attorney to discuss your case.
At McKenzie & Snyder we offer free consultation and analysis. Cases against property owners are very “fact specific” and we feel that all potential clients deserve thorough analysis before advising them on their options.
“We don’t get paid until You get paid!”
Written by Andrew Tobergte