What duty of care does a property owner owe you?

When you sustain an injury after slipping and falling on another person’s property, you might immediately assume that the property owner is liable for your injury expenses. Yet is that truly the case?

In many situations, that assumption holds true. Yet the extent a property owner must go to in taking preventative action to eliminate such hazards depends on the duty of care a property owner owes to you.

Detailing a property owner’s duties to you

Per California’s Civil Jury Instructions, property owners must exercise reasonable care in discovering and remedying any hazardous conditions on their lands. When determining whether or not they expended such care, a jury can consider elements such as:

  • The location of the property
  • The likelihood of the hazard causing harm and the potential seriousness of that harm
  • Whether the property owner knew the potential of the hazard causing harm
  • The extent over which the property owner might be able to control the hazard
  • The difficulty in preventing such a hazard

Another important point relevant to assigning liability in such a case is the likelihood someone would come on to the property in the way you did. This is where the concept of “duty of care” comes in.

Your status on another’s property

In general, when you enter on to another’s property, you fall into one of three classes of visitor: an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser. The only duty of care a property owner owes to you when trespassing is to not intentionally injure you. When you are on a property as a licensee (one whose personal or commercial interests takes you to another’s property), the property owner must have already addressed any hazards on their land. When a property owner invites you on to their land, that is when they must exercise all care in protecting you.

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