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Alexandria, VA 22311
Landowners owe a duty of care to everyone in society who might enter upon the land. Generally, a duty of care is a standard of diligence in ensuring that one’s own affairs do not harm others. In the case of a landowner, this duty means managing risk of hazards arising out of defects or natural characteristics of the land or buildings standing on it. The fact that a person enters land pursuant to criminal activity does not relinquish the owner of a duty, but it does modify that standard of care owed.
One example of a duty of care imposed on a landowner is a loose or broken floorboard on a wooden porch that will not support the weight of a person. Once a landowner becomes aware of such a defect, that landowner then knows that failure to fix it puts others at risk because an entrant upon the porch might unwittingly step on the defective floorboard which will abruptly give way, allowing the entrant’s leg to fall unexpectedly within the structure of the porch causing injury.
The standard of care owed to entrants upon land depends on the status of the entrant, as defined by the circumstances surrounding the visit.
When a property is open to the public for purposes of business, the owner solicits the presence of guests with whom to transact or hire. These guests are classified as invitees, and are owed the highest level of care.
The owner of land owes these entrants the diligence not only to maintain the safe condition of accessible portions of the property, but also to inspect and detect conditions likely to produce danger.
Water spilled on a marble floor creates a slippery surface capable of producing the slip and fall of one who walks on it. A spontaneous spill does not, by itself, produce liability for a landowner, but a puddle of water that is allowed to remain on a path frequented by invitees can constitute the breach of duty for a landowner to provide a safe environment.
When the owner of land receives visitors for pleasure, such as a social visit from friends, these visitors are considered licensees. This class of visitors is owed a lesser standard of care while occupying the property of another. A landowner must warn licensees of dangerous conditions existent on the property and provide reasonable protection, so long as the conditions are known to the owner, but does not have the duty to inspect and detect dangerous conditions.
Those who enter land either without permission from the owner or against the express warning of the owner not to enter commit an act that incurs both criminal and civil liability. Such entrants are known as trespassers. Landowners owe the lowest standard of care to trespassers, yet a duty is still owed. Owners of land must neither create nor maintain conditions likely to create death or great bodily harm to others.
An example of breach of duty to a trespasser is a pit created by the landowner that the landowner surreptitiously and maliciously covered by false, unsupportive turf.
Even if the pit is naturally occurring and no steps are taken to hide its danger, a breach of duty could arise if the owner either knows or has cause to know that trespassers frequent the area and that the characteristics of the pit create danger. Given such notice, the landowner must either warn or ameliorate the danger. If children are involved as trespassers, the standard of care is even higher and involves the duty to either recognize or foresee the presence of child trespassers as well as to detect the dangerous condition, itself.
Contact Legal Representation Today
If you or a loved one is involved in a dispute related to personal injury suffered as a result of a condition claimed to be a landowner’s breach of duty, contact the Kamerow Law Firm for a free and confidential initial consultation or by calling our office at 703-370-8088. We are eager to provide you with professional representation in your case.