Business Article

Premises Liability: Slip and Falls

In Arizona, the duty owed by landowners to someone who enters their property is determined by the status of the entrant as a licensee, invitee, or trespasser. Wickham v. Hopkins, 226 Ariz. 468, 471, ¶ 9, 250 P.3d 245, 248 (App. 2011). A licensee is “a person who is privileged to enter or remain on land only by virtue of the possessor’s consent,” such as a social guest. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 330 (1965) (cited in Nicoletti v. Westcor, Inc., 131 Ariz. 140, 142–43, 639 P.2d 330, 332-33 (1982)). A landowner has no duty to a licensee “other than to refrain from knowingly letting him run upon a hidden peril or wantonly or wil[l]fully causing him harm.” Wickham, 226 Ariz. at 471, ¶ 9, 250 P.3d at 248 (citations omitted). With respect to invitee, landowners have a duty to “maintain their property in a reasonably safe manner.” Nicoletti ,131 Ariz. at 142-43, 639 P.2d at 332-33.

Put simply, any customers who enter your property will likely be deemed “invitees.” Thus, you have a legal duty to keep your business property maintained “in a reasonable safe manner.” This often comes up in slip and fall cases, where a customer slips and injures himself. The focus of the case is likely to be how the accident happened. Was it the result of a failure to reasonably keep the floor clean and dry or was it a freak accident? Did you or your employees have knowledge of a potentially dangerous situation and do nothing (e.g., a huge crack that is obviously a tripping hazard)? Liability for a slip and fall is often difficult to prove. However, under the right circumstances, your exposure could be huge. Falls can cause serious injury like broken hips and legs that require tens of thousands of dollars in medical treatment.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney/client relationship.

Contributing Attorney: Sam Saks. Sam is the founder of Legal Aid of Arizona and a partner at the law firm of Guidant Law




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