In South Carolina, there are two types of premises liability. The first, and most common, involves liability for injuries that occur due to the condition of the premises. One of the most common types of premises liability in this category is a claim for injuries sustained in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident on someone else’s property. The other involves injury inflicted by a third party due to negligent security. Both arise when a property owner fails in a duty of care to the injured person. That duty varies depending on the legal status of the injured person.
A property owner or person in control of property may be responsible for injury to a visitor on that property if the owner failed in its legal duty to the injured party. In some situations, the property owner has an affirmative duty to keep the premises in reasonably safe condition for others on the property, and to warn of hazards on the property. But, not every visitor is entitled to that level of protection.
An invitee is someone who was invited or allowed on the property for the benefit of the property owner. The most common example of this is a client or customer entering a place of business. The business owner welcomes the public onto the property for its own profit, so owes a greater duty of care. In this situation, the property owner has a legal responsibility to exercise reasonable care for the safety of those on the premises. That includes both maintaining the property in reasonably safe condition and warning a visitor of any dangerous conditions that might not be immediately obvious to the guest.
A licensee is someone who is on the property with the landowner’s permission, but is not there for the benefit of the property owner. One common example is a friend, relative or neighbor visiting your home. The landowner owes a lesser duty to this type of visitor to the property. They must only take reasonable care to know whether someone is on the property and refrain from injuring them, and to warn of any concealed dangerous conditions the property owner knows of or should reasonably be aware of.
Imagine that a Charleston home has a broken walkway leading up to the porch. At a glance, it appears to be a simple crack in the sidewalk. But, in fact, there is a loose chunk of concrete that shifts when stepped on, creating a tripping hazard. Someone approaching the house trips on the loose block of concrete and breaks their ankle.
If the homeowner runs a licensed in-home daycare and the injured person is a parent dropping off a child, the homeowner will likely be liable for the injury.
If the injured person is a neighbor coming over for coffee, the homeowner will only be liable if they knew or reasonably should have known about the risk and failed to warn the guest.
If the injured person is an adult trespasser, the homeowner generally won’t be liable at all.
If the injured person is a child trespasser or a trespasser with intellectual disabilities, the homeowner may or may not be liable, depending on the factors listed above.
Like other types of premises liability claims, a negligent security claim depends on the property owner having breached a duty to the injured party. The simple fact that an injury caused by a third party occurred on someone else’s property will not be sufficient to establish liability–not even if the property owner is a business. Neither a property owner nor a business is expected to protect people on the premises against any and all risk of harm by a third party.
However, if the business has reason to know of the risk and fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the harm, it may be legally responsible. For example, a bar in a remote area on the outskirts of town that has had a series of muggings in its parking lot after closing might be liable for a parking lot attack if they failed to take measures such as ensuring adequate lighting while people were leaving the bar. Similarly, if someone in a retail store is threatening another shopper, gets physical with someone else in the store, or is acting in an erratic way that would lead a reasonable person to believe they might present a danger to the other shoppers, the business might be found liable for harm that person caused if they failed to remove them from the premises, contact law enforcement, or take other reasonable action.
Negligent security claims are very fact-dependent, so the best way to find out whether or not you might have a negligent security claim against your landlord, a local bar or restaurant, the organizers of a festival, concert, or other event, or another type of business is to consult an experienced Charleston premises liability lawyer.
To learn more about the possible value of your premises liability claim, call 843-300-7600 right now to schedule a free consultation. Or, fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page and we’ll reach out to you. Time is limited to pursue a premises liability claim, so don’t delay.