In Pennsylvania, as in other states, the owner of residential or commercial property has a duty to monitor and maintain the premises so as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. The duty imposed is not absolute, however. The person with control over the premises—a property owner, landlord, property manager or even a tenant, must take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of others. However, the duty varies based on the “status” of the visitor—the court will look at why the injured person was on the property.
A person on the property without the permission or invitation of the owner, known under the law as a trespasser, is least likely to have a legitimate claim for any damages sustained because of dangerous conditions on the property. In Pennsylvania, a trespasser may only obtain compensation for such losses if there was wanton or willful negligence or misconduct, defined as situation where the person in control of the property either desired to bring about harm or intentionally acted in unreasonable disregard for an obvious risk of injury.
A licensee is a person who has entered land or property at the consent of the owner or person in control of that property. In Pennsylvania, the possessor of property will be liable for injuries to a licensee where three conditions are met:
- The possessor knows (or has reason to know) of an unreasonable danger that a licensee would not reasonably be expected to discover
- The possessor fails to take reasonable steps to either alleviate the risk (fix the problem) or warn a potential licensee of the risk
- The licensee does not know and has no reason to know of the dangerous condition
An invitee is someone who has been asked or invited onto property which is open to the public. A person may be a public invitee or a business invitee. The possessor of property owes the highest duty to an invitee, and may be liable for injuries to an invitee, even if the invitee should reasonably discover the danger, if the possessor should reasonably expect that the invitee will not or cannot protect themselves from the risk of injury.
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At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP, we have fought for the rights of individuals throughout Delaware County since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or 302-594-4535 or contact us online