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June 13th, 2016

Sidewalk Fall Accident Lawsuits in Pennsylvania – Property Owners’ Duties

Under Pennsylvania law, a property owner owes their guests, customers, and others who visit the property a duty to take reasonable care of the property. This is to avoid accidents like sidewalk fall accidents, such as trip and fall accidents due to broken concrete or uneven pavers or slip and fall accidents due to ice or snow. In this article, our fall accident lawyers discuss the various duties imposed on property owners in sidewalk fall accident lawsuits under Pennsylvania law.

Status of the Property Owner

uneven pavers philadelphia walkwayUnder Pennsylvania law, property owners are treated differently depending on whether they are a private individual or a public business open to the general public. The law assigns duties to care for property or premises, depending on the type of property owner.

Public Business – The Highest Duty Owed

Businesses open to the public, such as grocery stores, gas stations, retail shops, etc., owe their patrons the highest duty under PA law. These businesses are required to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe manner, free of any serious hazards. This includes the duty to conduct reasonable inspections of the premises, including any sidewalk abutting the property. Businesses in Pennsylvania can be held liable for failing to rectify a known or unknown hazard. In other words, a customer injured due to broken concrete on the sidewalk in front of a store in Pennsylvania may win their case by proving that the store’s managers should have known about the problem.

Private Property Owner – Lower Duty Owed

Private property owners, including residential home owners, are held to a lower standard than public businesses. The duty owed in a given case depends on the status of the injured individual.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are three legal definitions which come into play in a sidewalk fall accident lawsuit against a private property owner: invitee, licensee and trespasser.

An invitee is someone who is literally invited to the premises. Example: a private homeowner throws a party and invites their friends. The friends are invitees. Generally, with respect to invitees, property owners may be held liable for failing to correct or warn of a known hazard or an unknown hazard, if the owner should have discovered the hazard under the circumstances.

A licensee is someone who is allowed to come onto the property for some purpose, with the owner’s express or implied permission. Example: an electrician who is called to a house to perform work has the owner’s express permission; a pedestrian who is walking on the sidewalk in front of the home has the owner’s implied permission. Generally, property owners may be held liable to a licensee for failing to correct or warn of a hidden, dangerous condition, something the licensee could not have discovered on their own.

A trespasser is someone who is on the property with no permission whatsoever. Generally, Pennsylvania law does not hold property owners liable to trespassers unless the property owner acted in a willful or wanton manner. For example, a property owner who ties a barely visible fishing line to prevent neighborhood children from riding their bikes through the property would likely be held liable for acting in a willful or wanton manner.

If you’ve been injured and would like more information about filing a sidewalk fall accident lawsuit, contact our legal team for a free consultation. (866) 641-0806

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