Premises Liability Claims & the Holidays


What Are Premises Liability Claims?

Premises liability is a legal concept that comes into play when a person gets injured on someone else's property due to unsafe conditions. In such cases, the property owner may be held responsible for the accident.

For a premises liability claim to arise, three conditions must generally exist:

  • The defendant must own the property where the accident happened.
  • The plaintiff (the injured party) must have been an invitee or a licensee. An invitee is someone the owner has invited onto the property (like a customer in a store), while a licensee is someone who enters the property for their own purpose (like a salesperson).
  • The negligence or omission of the property owner led to the accident.

Common Types of Premises Liability Claims During the Holidays

The holiday season brings about specific scenarios that can lead to premises liability claims in residential and commercial properties alike. Below, we outline some of the common types of premises liability accidents that happen.

Residential Properties

During the holidays, homeowners often decorate their houses, host parties, and have more foot traffic than usual. This increases the risk of accidents like:

  • Tripping hazards. Cluttered pathways due to holiday decorations, presents, or even extension cords for lights can create tripping hazards, leading to injuries.
  • Swimming pool accidents. In warmer climates, unsupervised or inadequately secured pools can lead to drownings or slip-and-fall accidents.
  • Staircase accidents. Poorly lit staircases or those cluttered with decorations or toys can lead to dangerous falls.
  • Slip and fall accidents. These are the most common types of premises liability accidents, often resulting from wet or icy sidewalks, driveways, or walkways. This could also happen inside due to spilled drinks or food during holiday parties.
  • Injuries from defective products. This could be from newly gifted appliances, toys, or other items that malfunction and cause harm.
  • Food poisoning. Poorly prepared or stored holiday meals can lead to food poisoning.
  • Fires. Holiday decorations like candles or faulty Christmas lights can lead to fires if not properly managed. Christmas trees, especially real ones, can also become fire hazards if they dry out and are near a heat source.
  • Falling object incidents. Improperly secured holiday decorations, such as ornaments or lights, may fall and cause injuries.
  • Electrical accident injuries. Overloaded outlets or faulty holiday lights can lead to electric shocks or even electrocution in severe cases.
  • Dog bites. With more visitors coming to the home during the holidays, dogs may become anxious or agitated, increasing the risk of bites or attacks.

Commercial Properties

Businesses also face increased premises liability risks during the holidays. Stores may be overcrowded, leading to accidents. Slip and fall accidents are common due to wet floors from rain or snow tracked in by customers. Additionally, improperly secured holiday decorations could potentially cause injuries.

Negligent security is a subset of premises liability law, where a property owner or occupier is held accountable for failing to provide reasonable security measures, resulting in harm to individuals on their premises. Venues and businesses that may require robust security include shopping malls, hotels, bars, nightclubs, apartment buildings, and event spaces, among others.

During the holiday season, businesses might see an uptick in crime and violence due to increased public gatherings and festive celebrations. This surge can result in negligent security claims if businesses and venues do not adequately prepare. For instance, a bar might be held liable for negligent security if it does not employ enough bouncers to control the holiday crowd, leading to fights or assaults. Similarly, hotels could face claims if they fail to secure their grounds properly, resulting in thefts or attacks on guests.

Common scenarios leading to negligent security claims during the holidays might also include insufficient lighting in parking lots, lack of security cameras, broken locks, or failure to respond appropriately to known security threats. These oversights can lead to various unfortunate incidents like robberies, accidents, assaults, or even worse.

Precautions to Prevent Holiday Premises Liability Claims

Preventing these accidents should be a priority for both homeowners and business owners. Regular inspection and maintenance of the property, adequate signage for any potential hazards, keeping walkways clear, and proper handling of holiday decorations can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

Tips for a Safe Holiday Season

To ensure a safe holiday season, here are some tips:

  • Be mindful of where you walk and the footwear you choose, particularly in snowy or rainy conditions.
  • If you're a property owner, keep your property well-lit and free from hazards.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings in crowded stores.
  • Don't leave candles or open fires unattended.
  • Ensure all holiday decorations are secure and safe.

Injured due to negligent conditions on someone else’s property? Contact the Law Office of Joseph A. Lazzara, P.C. to discuss your legal rights and options by calling (720) 809-8262.