In Pennsylvania, as in other states, there’s a duty with respect to the maintenance and care of residential and commercial property. The duty is typically imposed on anyone who has the power or authority to control the conditions of the property—that could be the owner, a landlord, a tenant or a property manager. When there’s a breach of that duty, any lawsuit for injuries is typically filed under a legal theory of “premises liability.”
The general duty owed is to reasonably monitor and maintain property so as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. Accordingly, the owner/tenant/landlord/property manager may not simply wait until a dangerous condition is discovered. The property must be reasonably monitored for potential problems. This doesn’t mean that there’s an absolute duty to prevent any accidents—only that there must be reasonable efforts to discover any potential problems.
Once a dangerous situation has been discovered, there’s duty to do one of the following:
- Fix the problem so that it no longer poses a risk of injury
- Prevent access to that part of the property that poses the danger
- Reasonably warn visitors of the danger present
The Nature of the Visitor
The duty owed will vary, based on the nature of the visitor. There is no duty owed to anyone who is illegally or wrongfully on the property—a trespasser. The only exception is for man-made or artificial features on the property that may attract a child or minor.
If the visitor is an invitee—someone who is expressly or impliedly “invited” on to the property for the benefit of the property owner— the duty is the highest possible under the law. This includes a customer who enters commercial property to obtain goods or services.
If, however, the visitor is a licensee—someone legally on the property, but there for his or her own primary benefit—the duty is slightly less. With a respect to a licensee, a property owner is only responsible for any danger that either was or should have been reasonable discovered and which the visitor could not have reasonably discovered on his or her own.
Contact Our Office
At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus, we have provided thorough and effective legal counsel to clients throughout Delaware County in Pennsylvania since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or contact us online.