Non-Delegable Duties in Premises Liability Cases

Whenever a person enters another person’s property, there is some duty of care that is non-delegable. This means that the duty cannot be shifted to another party so that the property owner is not liable for that specific duty or issue; specifically pertaining to the security and maintenance of the property. The law prohibits this transfer of liability and will hold the property owner accountable for any injuries sustained.

Duty of Care to Trespassers
In certain cases, the owner’s duty of care can be reduced. For example, if the person entering the property is a trespasser, the owner has very little legal liability for any injury or harm that comes to the trespasser. This duty is even further reduced if there are warning signs posted visibly on the property, especially if they are in the area where the trespasser entered the property and most likely saw them.

However, an owner has the non-delegable duty to maintain the property in a safe and adequate manner. An owner’s duty of care is much greater if he has a hazard on the property, such as an electrical fence that can harm people. Even if there is a trespasser on the property, it is likely that most courts will find that the owner has a non-delegable duty of care to post signs notifying the presence of a hazard.

Duty of Care to Invitees
An owner owes the greatest duty of care to an invitee, or someone that they invited on the property. If that person suffers from an accident on the property, in some cases, the owner may try to argue that they are not liable for the injury since it was the invitee’s own fault, or place liability on another party, such as a repair technician or landscaper. This is most likely to happen in the case of a contractor working on the property.

For example, if an electrician falls because of inadequate lighting and hazards were present on the basement stairs, but the owner failed to warn them of these potential dangers, the owner will not be able to place liability on another party. However, if the electrician makes their way to the basement, but then injures themselves while doing electrical work as a result of a mistake or inexperience, and there was no hazard that was out of the ordinary in the area where they were working, then the electrician may bear part of the legal responsibility for the accident.

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Richard D. DiTomaso

Licensed since 1995

Member at firm DiTomaso Law

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