Articles Posted in Premise Liability

Many of our injury clients are businesses or individuals who sustain an injury as a result of the negligent actions of a North Carolina employee or agency. There are many special considerations that need to be made in these cases, including a close examination of sovereign immunity statutes and timelines for notice of claim. ice pond

Government agencies require those filing a claim for damages to first file a notice of that claim within a certain window, typically 180 days. So even though the statute of limitations may not expire for three years from the date of the injury, a claim can be found invalid if no notice of claim is given within that short window. That’s why it’s so important to seek legal advice just as soon as possible after suffering a serious personal injury.

This was the lesson learned recently in a case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, where a college student filed a claim after suffering a slip-and-fall on campus.

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A woman carrying large paintings down the steps from an art gallery tripped and fell on an eroded concrete staircase. The building was owned by the local city government, which had leased the property to the art gallery, which sublet to numerous tenants – the plaintiff among them. stairs

The defendant North Carolina city in this premises liability lawsuit sought summary judgment – which was granted – on an assertion of sovereign immunity. Attorneys for the city argued the claim did not fall under circumstances for which the city had granted a waiver of governmental immunity.

The plaintiff appealed, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed. Basically, the fact that the city was making a profit off these tenants meant that it was serving a proprietary function, the plaintiff argued, which meant the city couldn’t assert governmental immunity.

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Businesses that open their doors to customers have the highest responsibility to take reasonable measures to keep those guests safe from foreseeable injuries. Yes, that means making sure spills are cleaned promptly and staircases are well-lit so that guests don’t fall. But it also means making sure that measures are taken to minimize the risk of a criminal attack.parking lot

Although there is no universal definition of what this means, generally patrons can expect that parking lots will be well-lit, private rooms will have working locks, and security on site will be adequate, given the risk of crime for that business or in that area. Even though business owners don’t plan third-party criminal attacks, their inaction can leave patrons or visitors vulnerable to them, and in those cases, victims can seek compensation from the property owner through premises liability law.

In a recent case before the Texas Supreme Court, the plaintiff was assaulted and robbed in an apartment complex’s visitor parking. He filed a premises liability lawsuit against the apartment complex business and its owners, alleging it was known or should have been known that there was a high crime rate on the premises and in the surrounding area, and yet they failed to use ordinary care to make the complex safe.

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Asheville leads the state for the amount of tourism dollars it rakes in each year – more than $900 million just in Buncombe County in 2013. In 2015, Asheville recorded a 15 percent increase in lodging tax revenue, which was a record. reports that as of last year, there were 17 new hotel projects or expansions currently in the works in Asheville. shower head

Tourism has become a vital industry in North Carolina, from its coastline to its high country. But along with that money comes the responsibility of hotel and other property owners to ensure that guests are reasonably safe from foreseeable hazards. That means walkways are cleared of ice, snow, and other slippery substances, parking lots are well-lit, and security is reasonable in a way that doesn’t invite crime. It also means that guests can expect that they’ll be warned of any hazards about which the owner knows but hasn’t yet addressed.

This was the claim made in the recent case of Parker v. Four Seasons Hotels, Ltd., recently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. According to court records, the hotel admitted negligence in a case in which a hotel guest was injured by a defective shower door that resulted in the glass shattering and causing cuts all over the plaintiff’s body. However, the question became a matter of damages. The plaintiff sought both compensatory and punitive damages, but the trial court refused to allow her to proceed with her punitive damages claim. The appeals court later ruled that was a mistake.

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A man fatally shoots his wife and two young daughters at a restaurant. Is the restaurant liable for failing to protect the victims? gun

The plaintiff in a premises liability lawsuit in Ohio alleges the restaurant failed to do enough to protect the family, despite having knowledge they might be in danger. The plaintiff called this behavior a conscious disregard for the safety of patrons.

The facts in the 2012 incident are sharply disputed, but this is exactly why a county common pleas judge in Ohio ruled not to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant restaurant, which argued the violence was not foreseeable, and therefore it had no duty to protect.

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Businesses that welcome the general public owe the highest duty of care to ensure those guests are safe when they are welcomed onto company property. However, one of the largest retailers in the world has come under fire these last several months for allegedly failing to have adequate security to protect both shoppers and workers alike. security camera

Wal-Mart has reportedly become a regular stop for law enforcement across the country, much to the chagrin of local police agencies and worker advocacy groups. Last July, The State reported that the 24-7 Wal-Mart located in Camden, SC (a small town outside Columbia) is where 14 percent of the local police department’s calls for service are generated. From January to June of last year, 187 of the agency’s 1,372 calls were from Wal-Mart. That’s an average of one a day. This is reportedly typical of stores like this, which offer around-the-clock service for everything from electronics to bread. Many of those calls may involve shoplifters. However, these incidents sometimes involve very violent encounters.

Labor groups are now pushing for the retail giant to improve security, both in the store and around its parking lots, according to Bloomberg. The groups say the problem has gotten so serious that they have taken to meeting with officials in numerous cities to discuss declaring the store a public nuisance in the hope that will pressure the retailer to improve its security efforts.

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Patrons of shopping centers are owed the highest duty of care by the property owner/manager to ensure the sight is free of unreasonable hazards. Where those hazards exist but are not obvious, businesses have a responsibility to quickly remedy them and, if necessary, to warn customers about it. crates

But what happens when a danger is obvious? This falls under the umbrella of a legal theory known as the “open and obvious doctrine.” This is a major exception to the general rule that property owners have a duty to take reasonable care to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm. The doctrine holds that the invitor will be shielded from liability if the hazard in question was both open and obvious.

Now, there can be an exception to the open and obvious rule, too. It is reasonable distraction. This distraction exception can apply in cases where the land possessor should have had a reasonable expectation that the invitee’s attention was going to be distracted, so that he or she wouldn’t have discovered what is obvious and what might otherwise be discovered in time to protect against it. Asserting such a case can prove challenging. Alternatively, plaintiff could dispute the open-and-obvious nature of the hazard, as did the plaintiff in the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Utley v. Smith Hardware and GardenContinue reading

A devastating fire in Oakland, California in a decrepit warehouse called the Ghost Ship has left families of 36 people in mourning and a whole community reeling. The incident highlights the imperative nature of fire safety codes, which have done much over the last several decades to improve the well-being of occupants in large, crowded structures, from theaters to apartment buildings. Some of the biggest unanswered questions at this point revolve around whether the building was up-to-date on fire codes and, if not, what was known or done by city fire officials to press for repairs. warehouse

Property owners and managers have a responsibility to make sure their sites are reasonably safe for those who are legally there. The degree of that duty varies depending on the victim’s purpose on the property. For example, paying customers are owed the highest duty of care, while those who are on site to further their own interests are owed a lesser duty. Even those who are trespassing are owed some protection, though exactly how much varies by state and other case-specific facts.

Here, city fire officials haven’t indicated how often code inspectors visited the site or whether it was ever flagged for violations or for the fact that it was (likely) being used for purposes other than what its zoning allowed. Although this was designated as a warehouse space, witnesses and investigators have indicated it was being used for a myriad of different purposes, including not just storage but art galleries and mini-residences. On the night of the fire, the warehouse was being used for an underground concert. It’s not clear who organized, promoted, or was responsible for that event.  Continue reading

One of the first questions potential personal injury plaintiffs ask is how much it’s going to cost to hire an attorney. The good news is most injury cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis, which means nothing is paid upfront. Instead, payment is derived from a percentage of the damages awarded – if damages are awarded. If you lose, you don’t pay the attorney for their time. It’s a gamble for lawyers, which is why they are choosy about the cases they accept. hotel

In most situations, per “the American Rule,” the losing side doesn’t have to pay attorney fees to the winner. (This is in contrast to “the English Rule,” in which the losing side is typically ordered to pay the losing side’s attorney fees.) However, many jurisdictions – including North Carolina – allow a big exception to the American Rule. An unwarranted refusal to pay a claim or negotiate a settlement can be grounds for a plaintiff to assert a defendant should cover attorney fees.

The Florida Supreme Court recently considered a dispute over this exception, following a $1.7 million verdict in favor of a crime victim who sued the hotel where the attack occurred for failing to protect him.

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When you enter a business establishment, you have an expectation that it will be reasonably safe from hazards that aren’t obvious to you and about which the establishment knows or should know. gun

If a business fails to do this, it’s a type of negligence known as premises liability. A specific type of premises liability is called negligent security. It involves the duty of the business to make sure reasonable measures are in place to protect patrons and guests from third-party criminal actions. The key here is that the crime in question is foreseeable. That’s typically proven by showing a pattern of past similar crimes in the same place or same general area.

In the recent case of Goodwin v. Yeakle’s Sports Bar & Grill, the Indiana Court of Appeals was tasked with weighing whether the trial court or appeals court made the right call with regard to a negligent security lawsuit.

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