Under North Dakota law of premises liability, property owners have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe so that visitors are not harmed in a foreseeable accident. If they breach this duty, they act negligently. If a visitor is injured as a result of this negligence, they can be held liable for the injured person’s damages.
In theory, the above may look simple. In practice, personal injury cases involving premises liability can be very complicated and their outcomes can be unpredictable. In this blog post, we will briefly explore some key concepts behind these cases.
A supermarket slip-and-fall
A textbook example of a premises liability case might involve a customer at a supermarket who slips on a spill, falls on the hard linoleum floor and is injured.
These slip-and-fall accidents may be common, and sometimes we even find them humorous, but they can also sometimes lead to serious injuries, A bad fall can lead to broken bones, back injuries or even brain injuries.
A person who has suffered such an injury needs all the help they can get in paying for their medical expenses and lost wages while they are unable to work. They may also be suffering pain and other issues that interfere with their lives in an untold number of ways. If these damages are the fault of someone else’s negligence, the injured person deserves compensation. But to hold the store owner liable for their damages, the injured person must first prove that the accident happened because of the store owner’s negligence.
Remember that the property owner just has a duty to do what is reasonably necessary. They can’t be expected to prevent all accidents from happening. However, they can be expected to watch out for and address obvious safety hazards.
The person who slipped on a spill may argue that the owner was negligent when they failed to clean up the spill in a timely manner, and that this negligence led to their damages.
Of course, premises liability isn’t limited to supermarkets or any retail store. Owners have a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid injury to their visitors in all kinds of properties, including inside private homes and in outdoor settings.
However, it’s important to note that North Dakota law provides protections to property owners against premises liability claims in the outdoors under certain circumstances. In the interest of promoting outdoor recreation, North Dakota lawmakers specifically limited the liability of landowners and government entities for accidents that take place on their land when it is used for public recreation.
Under this law, if a landowner allows the public to use their property for snowmobile recreation in the wintertime, the landowner generally cannot be held liable for the injuries of a visitor who is injured in a snowmobile accident while on their property.
Status of the visitor
It’s also important to note that a landowner’s duty depends to some extent on the status of the person who is visiting their property. A store owner has a heightened duty to store customers — members who have been invited onto the premises to shop. A homeowner also has a certain duty to invited social guests.
These duties are somewhat lessened for other types of visitors, such as gardeners or construction workers who are working on the property. And a landowner generally has a low level of duty to trespassers.
The rules behind premises liability can seem rather abstract when viewed in isolation. It can be hard to see why they’re important until you apply them to your case, and the facts of your case may be unique. No two accidents are exactly alike. For this reason, lawyers often describe premises liability cases as “fact-specific.”
If you have been injured while you were on someone else’s property, it may be a good idea to consult with a professional to learn how the law may apply to the unique facts of your case.