2022 is just around the corner!
As we wave goodbye to 2021 and embrace the New Year it’s important that we all celebrate safely. If you’re planning on hosting a New Year’s get-together in your home to ring in the New Year, you should be aware of best practices for keeping yourself and others safe in your home. If guests or hired staff are injured on your property you could be held liable for their injuries in a premise liability case.
Premise liability pertains to the legal requirements for a property owner to make their premises safe for visitors, customers, and staff. In most cases premise liability cases apply to businesses and buildings, but they can also apply to homeowners.
Premise liability is typically covered under standard insurance policies.
Whether or not you are held liable for an injury sustained on your property partially depends on the reason that person was there to begin with. Each reasoning has a specific duty of care that is applicable to that particular situation.
Legally, “invitees” are people who are invited to your property for business-related reasons. This includes contractors, business interests, and hired staff. For invitees your duty of care is higher than for other people. Hazardous conditions and necessary repairs should be made before invitees step foot on your property. This is similar to the steps property owners must take to ensure that employees for retail companies are safe during major sale events such as Black Friday.
Licensees are friends, family, and guests that you invite to your home for non-financial or business-related reasons. Because licensees are not on the premises for business-related reasons, homeowners have a lesser degree of duty to ensure the premises is safe.
While making repairs is ideal, warnings are sufficient to legally protect licensees and remove liability from homeowners if injury does occur. This is the main difference between invitees and licensees.
In most cases you are not responsible for keeping trespassers who come into your property.
However, there are some instances where you may be required to take steps to protect children who may trespass on your property under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. Home features like swimming pools are hot tubs are included under this doctrine are inherently enticing to children and may cause them to trespass. In this case, you are responsible for assuming this may be the case and taking steps (such as covering the pool or setting up gates) to keep children from drowning.
You’re hosting a New Year’s get together and guests are provided access to your home and deck. Your deck has been rotted for a while and you have failed to notify your guests of the potential danger. At one point during the night Marcia decides to step outside to get some fresh air and falls through the deck, breaking her leg and injury her head on the way down.
You decided to go all-out for your party and hired a DJ to play for your party. As they are bringing in equipment New Year’s Eve, they fall off your from porch. There was a rickety step that wasn’t nailed down and you didn’t take the time to fix it before they arrived.
As a homeowner you are liable for injury in both of these scenarios. In Scenario A you are liable because you didn’t inform your licensee about the danger posed by the rotten deck.
In Scenario B, you did not take the proper steps to make sure that your home was safe for the person you hired, and they were injured as a result.
No matter who you’re having over to ring in the New Year there are several practical steps you can take to make sure that everyone stays safe:
With the freezing temperatures we’ve seen this week it’s also a good idea to lay down salt and deicer on walkways to prevent guests from slipping and falling on walkways or outdoor staircases.