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Back to the Basics: Understanding Premises Liability & Slip and Fall Cases

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“Premises Liability” is a legal term that is sometimes challenging to understand. Colloquially, the phrase is used anytime one wants to hold building or landowners responsible for slip and fall accidents.Owners can be held liable for some of the accidents or misfortunes that their guests experience under a premises liability theory. The legal details in these cases are complex, and to recover you need an attorney who knows the law inside out.

The Legal Basics

Premises liability is a theory of negligence law that is based on the idea that the owners of premises owe a duty of care to the people who visit or stay on their property. There are three criteria that must usually be met before premises liability will apply. They are:

  • The defendant must own or occupy the premises;
  • The plaintiff must not be a trespasser; they must be an invitee or a licensee. Historically, trespassers are not protected by premises liability (though there are exceptions);
  • There must be actual negligence - a breach of the duty of care for one's guests.

The categories of invitee, licensee and trespasser come from the common law, but they are sometimes used today to explain the difference in how much care they are owed by the landlord/defendant.

slip and fall, liability, premises liability, Illinois personal injury lawyer, Joliet personal injury attorneyA trespasser is fairly self explanatory. “Invitee” is also fairly simple - invitees are people who have been invited (for private business or as members of the public) onto the property. An example of an invitee would be a customer at a restaurant - the restaurant is designed for members of the public to enter and patronize. A licensee is a bit more difficult to define. Some licensees are classed as ‘invited licensees' - namely, the landowner's personal friends - and receive generally the same standard of care as invitees. Others are ‘uninvited licensees,' who enter onto the premises for their own purposes. An example of an uninvited licensee would be a person who goes door-to-door proselytizing.

In the past, the highest duty of care is owed to invitees and invited licensees - namely, a duty to keep the property in reasonably safe condition, as well as to correctly warn of dangerous conditions that they knew of or should have known of. There are lesser degrees of care owed to the other classifications, with the duty owed to a trespasser merely being to refrain from wanton injury.

In terms of actual negligence, Illinois has a statutory law, the Premises Liability Act, that codifies premises liability when it comes to slip and fall injuries. This is different than some other states where it is left to the common law. In Illinois the law generally abolishes use of traditional categories and states more simply that if someone slips and falls on a premises, the owner or occupier can face liability if they failed to use “reasonable care under the circumstances regarding the state of the premises or acts done or omitted on them.”

Get Legal Help

If you have been injured and believe that you may have a premises liability claim,  Contact the family and criminal law attorneys here at the Law Offices of Cosmo Tedone and Barbara Morton, P.C. for tailored guidance. We have offices in Joliet and Plainfield and work with residents in many nearby communities on these issues.
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