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Premises Liability — A Nuanced Area of Personal Injury Law

Premises liability deals with unsafe property conditions that result in an injury to a visitor to the property. While the concept of premises liability law may seem straightforward, its application can be complex and nuanced depending on the facts of a particular case.

Common types of premises liability

A very common type of premises liability case is the slip-and-fall accident involving a slippery substance on the defendant’s property. Another common type of premises liability is the trip-and-fall accident involving a permanent or fixed object, such as a crack, brick or functional item on the property.

Elements of negligence

As with other negligence claims, a claimant must establish the following elements for a premises liability claim in North Carolina:

  • Existence of a duty of the property owner to the claimant
  • A breach of that duty
  • An injury to the claimant that was proximately caused by such breach
  • Damages to the claimant

Open and obvious exception

In general, a person that is injured as a result of an “open and obvious” property condition cannot recover under a premises liability claim. This is a common defense used by defendants accused of premises liability.

A recent court decision analyzed the open and obvious exception. The plaintiff in the case, who was hauling logs from the defendant’s property, had to deliver some documents to a person on the property. In order to do so, he had to walk through an area of logs and other debris. During the walk, he fell and sustained injuries. He then sued the property owner under a theory of premises liability. The Court of Appeals ruled that although the unsafe condition was open and obvious, the plaintiff had no alternative path to deliver the documents, and therefore the open and obvious defense should not apply. This ruling exemplifies the complex and fact-specific nature of premises liability.

If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, we recommend that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review the facts of your case. Premises liability cases can be complicated and nuanced and your attorney can help you navigate the applicable legal landscape.

Our team of attorneys at Hensley Cloninger, P.C. has served injured clients throughout North Carolina and the southeast United States and would be glad to help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

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