Premises liability

January 3, 2017




Premises Liability: is the liability for a landowner for certain torts that occur on the real property. This can range from things from "injuries caused by a variety of hazardous conditions, including open excavations, uneven pavement, standing water, crumbling curbs, wet floors, un-cleared snow, icy walks, falling objects, inadequate security, insufficient lighting, concealed holes, improperly secured mats, or defects in chairs or benches


Law is the body of law which makes the person who is in possession of land or premises responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are present on the premises.


- Wikipedia Definition

Premises liability is an area of law that holds property owners legally responsible for accidents that occur on their property due to unsafe conditions, or the lack safety measures to keep people safe while on the owners property. Premises liability laws are complex and have case law in favor for the injured person. There are many types of premises liability injuries, ranging from minor injuries, major injuries, wrongful death, and loved ones being killed on owners property. In cases of rape, assault, or death that occur on someone else’s property due to lack of security, the property owner can be held responsible.

Premises liability statistics: National Research has found in case that in case in which owners could show they had some or all of the following security, safety plans, policy & procedures for critical incidents, threat assessments completed and hired a professional to come in and check facilities and polices; won more lawsuits than owners who failed to o so. The courts took notice that the owners were proactive and not reactive and attempted to do everything in their power to keep their business and customers safe. The court understands some critical incidents cant be avoided but the key in all cases is did the property owners take steps to keep people safe on their property.  

Bureau of Justice Statistics


Major findings from the 2005 Civil Justice Survey of State

Courts include


• A jury decided almost 70% of the approximately 26,950

general civil trials disposed of in 2005.


• About 60% of the general civil trials included in the

survey involved a tort claim and about a third involved

contractual issues.


• Plaintiffs won in almost 60% of trials overall.


• The median damage award for plaintiffs who won

monetary damages in general civil trials was $28,000

(figure 1).


• Punitive damages were awarded to 5% of plaintiff winners

in general civil trials in 2005.

Median compensatory and punitive final awards for plaintiff

winners in select trial cases. (This is only a sample size)


Asbestos $682,000

Medical malpractice $400,000

Employment discrimination $175,000

Premises Liability $98, 000

Mortgage Foreclosure $78,000

Fraud $75,000

Intentional Tort $38,000

All Trials $28,000

Seller Plaintiff $27,000

Buyer Plaintiff $17,000

Automobile $15,000

Premises liability case law of the United States

Lai Chau v. Southstar Equity Limited Co. and Brookside Properties Inc.


Lai Chau, a former University of South Florida student, survived a violent abduction in her North Tampa apartment complex in 2001. Two men sneaked past the complex’s security gate, and shot the 20-year-old student three times in the head. The landmark negligent security case won Chau $15.7 million in damages in 2004. Fred Zinober, who helped represent Chau, said "it never would have happened to Lai Chau," had the property owners not allowed negligent security at The Remington complex. "We really believe that people will pay an additional $12 or $13 (per month) to be safe," Zinober remarked of security upgrades during the trial.

Cochrane v. Linda Manor

In the case of Cochrane v. Linda Manor, a 17-year-old boy was murdered in the parking lot of his own apartment complex/motel. The murderer also lived in the same complex. A few days before the murder happened, a maid working for the apartment complex found the murderer in his room with a shot-gun. He told the maid about his fantasy of killing someone. She notified the apartment complex manager and was told not to go into his room any longer. They did not evict the man, and failed to warn the other tenants of his behavior. Investigators found that there had been multiple violent and non-violent crimes on the property over several years, yet the owners of the complex did not take any action to increase security. The jury decided to award the victim's mother $10 million in compensatory damages, $2.6 million in punitive damages, with the aim of punishing the defendant for their deplorable conduct and as a deterrent for others. This was the largest personal injury verdict ever in the state of Nevada at the time.

New York case law

Morales v. Lia is the leading modern case in New York law. A pedestrian who was hit by a car in the parking lot of a strip mall was unable to get payment for his injuries from the mall owner because the driver and owner of the vehicle were 100% liable for plaintiff's injuries.


In another case, Peralta v. Henriquez, New York's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals, held that a landowner has a duty to provide lighting, when "defendants created the dangerous condition that led to the accident, [and] notice was not at issue ...."; in this case, it was lack of illumination that caused plaintiff's injuries when she walked into a bent car antenna in the darkened parking lot of defendant's premises. Both the intermediate court, the Appellate Division, and the N.Y. Court of Appeals cited prior precedent, that when "the general public is invited into stores, office buildings and other places of public assembly, the owner is charged with the duty of providing the public with a reasonably safe premises, including a safe means of ingress and egress."Peralta has been cited itself as precedent in at least one other department's decision. Peralta was distinguished in those instances where the landlord had no notice of a dangerous situation, e.g. a tenant's prior criminal propensity to commit arson.

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