Articles Tagged with Premises Liability

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Last time, we mentioned that the type of damages available in a premises liability case depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Damages, we noted, comes in several varieties, including those dealing with economic losses and non-economic losses, as well punitive damages.

Compensatory damages, sometimes called actual damages, relate to losses that are easily translated into monetary compensation. Such damages include things like lost wages, diminished earning capacity, medical expenses, and similar sorts of damages. Non-economic damages cover losses that are not easily monetized, such as pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Punitive damages are a category all their own. 

While compensatory damages have the aim of repaying the accident victim for his or her injuries and losses, punitive damages are aimed at punishing the defendant in a civil context. Punitive damages are not available in ordinary cases, but only in cases involving particularly egregious conduct. Ordinary negligence does not make an accident victim entitled to punitive damages, but only conduct involving a high degree of moral culpability. Such damages are not ordinarily going to be awarded in premises liability cases, though it is possible.

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In recent posts, we’ve been looking at the topic of premises liability and strategies property owners sometimes use to minimize their liability. From what we’ve said thus far, it should be fairly clear why it is important to work with experienced legal counsel in seeking compensation from a negligent property owner.

First of all, property owners cannot be expected to take responsibility for their negligence when an accident occurs on their property. This is especially true in cases where the injured party may have failed to take reasonable care in some way or can be said to have assumed the risk by participating in a sporting or recreational activity. Having an advocate is necessary to ensure a negligent property owner is not successful in refusing to take responsibility. 

Second, premises liability goes beyond slip and fall cases and encompasses situations involving violent crime and theft, food poisoning, and construction accidents. It is important to have guidance and advocacy in cases like these where premises liability may be a less obvious cause of action.

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This is our fourth post in a series dealing with the topic of premises liability. We’ve already looked briefly at premises liability claims in general, as well as the issues of comparative negligence and assumption of risk in the context of premises liability.

So called “slip and fall” cases are among the most common types of premises liability claims. Case law in New York has established several viable defenses for property owners faced with potential premises liability in slip and fall cases. First of all, a plaintiff must be able to prove the existence of a dangerous or defective condition on the property which led to his or her injury. A plaintiff who cannot who cannot provide sufficient evidence to establish such a condition may not hold the property owner liable. 

Not only must there have been a defective condition on the property, but the defect must a certain character to it. Two important defenses deal with the nature of the defect. First of all, the defect must not have been trivial. What exactly constitutes trivial is a matter for a jury to decide, and there are factors that are supposed to be taken into account. The basic idea, though, is that not every technically defective condition is sufficient to give rise to a claim of negligence.

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In our last post, we began looking at the principles of assumption of risk and comparative fault in premises liability cases. In the state of New York, premises liability is based on negligence, which is the failure to carry out a legal duty owed to another.

While some states make premises liability dependent on the classes of persons who are on the premises—whether they are invitees, trespassers, licensees—New York law focuses more on reasonableness of conduct under the circumstances of the case. Speaking generally, though, a landowner or business owner will be liable when he or she created a dangerous or defective condition which causes an accident or when he or she had notice of the condition and failed to take action to address it in a reasonable amount of time. 

Notice of a dangerous condition may be either actual or constructive, the difference being that constructive notice may be found when a specific defect in the property is visible and apparent and exists for a long enough time that the property owner should have discovered it and taken steps to address it.

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Last time, we began looking at a premises liability case out in California involving an injury that occurred in a New York health club. One of the issues in that case, we noted, was whether the health club patron assumed the risk of injury by participating in an activity offered by the club. Another issue was comparative negligence, and whether or not the patron acted negligently in obtaining the injury.

When it comes to premises liability law, New York is a pure comparative fault state. In tort law, pure comparative negligence refers to a scheme whereby a court can acknowledge a finding of negligence on the part of the plaintiff and reduce any damages awarded in proportion to the plaintiff’s negligence in contributing to his or her own injuries. 

This means that one of the defenses available to property owners and businesses in premises liability litigation is that the injured party acted negligently. New York law also recognizes assumption and risk as well, which is a slightly different principle. Assumption of risk is the principle that a property owner or business does not have a duty to protect a patron if the patron freely assumes a known risk. Assumption of risk is usually only applied in cases involving athletic or recreational activities.

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When it comes to safety in places of business, most of us expect that businesses are going to be proactive in dealing with dangerous conditions that exist on the premises. We assume that if there is a condition on the property that presents a significant risk to patrons, the condition will be addressed in a timely manner. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen and injury can occur as a result.

When a business patron is injured, the right thing for the business to do in most circumstances is to take responsibility for the injury. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen either. Take a recent lawsuit filed in a California court. The case involved a man who allegedly acquired a knee injury when he jumped and landed on a defective floor board at a Levittown, New York 24 Hour Fitness in January 2014. The man, at the time of the injury, had been participating in an activity offered by the club.

The health club’s response to the complaint was not to take responsibility, but rather to put the blame back on the club patron by arguing that he assumed the risk of injury by engaging in the activity offered by the club. The fitness center also denied that there was any defect, claiming it conducted regular inspections. Its motion to dismiss the personal injury suit, however, was denied.

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Many people think that in order to bring a personal injury claim against a company, you have to have suffered catastrophic injuries or someone should have died as a result of injuries. It’s important to remember, though, that even seemingly minor accidents can leave an individual seriously injured.

Those injuries may also keep an individual from working for a period of time. The combination of medical expenses related to the injuries combined with the inability to work may cause someone to seek compensation.

Recently a New York appeals court allowed a lawsuit against a local YMCA to proceed. The lawsuit was filed by a man and his wife after the man reportedly fell on ice in the parking lot of the Kingston and Ulster County YMCA.

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In our last post we started talking about the increase in personal injury claims coming from correctional facilities in New York City. The last few years have seen significant increases. Although some of the claims come from simple accidents such as slip-and-fall accidents, many of them are due to violence that happens within jail walls.

When looking at the numbers during fiscal year 2015, there was a substantial increase in various types of incidents. There was a 46 percent increase of reported cases of jail staff being assaulted by inmates, there was a 27 percent increase in reports where a staff member used force against an inmate, and there was a 19 percent increase in infraction citations given to inmates for assaults or fights. All these increases have happened while the actual jail population has dropped in recent years.

Although the actual episodes of violent acts keep increasing, the number of inmate assaults that led to serious injury was down by 11 percent. Similarly, reports related to force used by officers that led to serious injury fell by 23 percent during 2015.

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As summertime rolls in, Syracuse residents will slowly thaw out and make their way outside to enjoy the great weather. It’s always a treat to be able to enjoy warm days outside and be more active. While we do our best to enjoy various activities, we also need to keep in mind that the summertime often brings more injuries.

These injuries may be related to sports activities such as soccer and football. People of all ages can get injured during a bike ride or while rollerblading. And other activities, such as boating or summer patio parties, can lead to devastating injuries if alcohol is involved.

Many of these activities are done in a group setting which means your injuries may have resulted from another person’s actions. For example, if you were on a friend’s boat and got injured because he was driving drunk and got into an accident, you may end up wanting to seek compensation for your injuries.

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When a snowstorm hits, many people take cover until it passes. Sometimes it’s the best option in order to avoid injuries due to slippery roads and sidewalks. Once the snowstorm subsides, the city works hard to clear the roads and sidewalks so that people can start commuting without a fear of being injured.

While we may sit around and wait for the city to do its job, it’s important for private entities to do their job as well. A company cannot rely on the city to clean its private parking lots or the sidewalks leading up to their property. Unfortunately, all too often, companies neglect to follow through on their duty to keep their property safe, leading to injuries.

And while the winter season can be notorious for slip-and-fall accidents, these types of accidents can happen during any time of the year. There may be various hazards that can cause someone to fall, such as spilled food, leaking water, unsecure rugs, and poorly maintained stairs.

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