What Must You Prove to Win a Premises Liability Case in Pennsylvania?
May 22, 2019
Premises Liability in Pennsylvania
When a person is injured on another person’s property in Pennsylvania, the injured person may file what is called a premises liability lawsuit against the owner of the property for the injuries he or she suffered. Even though a person may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against the owner of the property on which he or she was injured, the mere filing of the action does not mean that the lawsuit will be successful. Rather, to win a premises liability case in Pennsylvania, the injured person must prove certain elements, which we discuss below.
Elements of a Premises Liability Case
In order to prevail in a premises liability lawsuit, the injured person must prove all of the following elements:
- That the property owner owed a duty of care to the injured person
- That the property owner breached this duty of care
- That the breach caused the injured person’s injuries
- That the injuries caused resulted in actual damages
Because our system of law requires a lesser standard of proof for civil cases than criminal cases, those pursuing premises liability lawsuits must only prove each of the above elements by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that you must establish facts that show that it is more likely than not that the property owner owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, the breach caused your injuries, and your injuries resulted in actual damage to you.
Proving Duty of Care
In order to prove that a property owner owed you a duty of care while you were on his or her property, you must establish whether you were an invitee, licensee, or trespasser while on the property owner’s property. An invitee is a person who is permitted onto the property for some business purpose. A licensee is a person who is invited by the property owner for be on the property for some personal or social purpose, like a birthday party or a barbecue. A trespasser is a person who is on the property owner’s property without permission from the property owner.
Under Pennsylvania law, a property owner owes invitees a duty of care to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and to either repair or warn of any dangerous conditions on the property that the owner either knows of or should know exist. A property owner, on the other hand, owes licensees a lesser duty to warn licensees of any concealed dangerous conditions on the property. Because of the circumstances in which trespassers are on a property owners’ properties, property owners owe trespassers virtually no duty to reasonable maintain or warn of dangers on the property, but must refrain from intentionally causing harm to the trespassers.
Because property owners owe people a duty of care if they are either an invitee or licensee, a person trying to win a premises liability lawsuit must prove he or she was either an invitee or a licensee on the property owner’s property when they were injured. This can be proven by providing testimony as to the reasons you were on the premises. It may also be proven by testimony of others or physical evidence such as flyers or invitations, which establish that you were either invited onto the property for a business purpose, i.e the property on which you were injured is a store open to the public, or that the property owner was holding a social event on his or her property and you were invited.
Once you have established that you were either an invitee or licensee on the property when your injuries occurred, you must then prove that the property owner breach the duty of care owed to you in some way. If you are an invitee, who is owed a higher duty of care, then breach of that duty may be proven by testimony of employees of the property owner that the employees do not perform adequate checks of the property in order to find dangerous conditions on the property. This may be able to show that, despite owing invitees a duty to reasonably maintain the premises and to protect them from dangerous conditions on the property, they failed to apprise themselves of the changing conditions of the property and that, had they performed checks of the premises, they would have discovered the dangerous condition that caused the person’s injuries. Another way breach of duty of care owed to invitees can be proven is by watching surveillance footage of the premises, which can show when dangerous conditions appear and the speed of the property owner, or his or her employees, in responding to the condition.
Testimony of the injured person or other people on the property at the time the injury occurred that the property owner failed to warn them of hidden dangerous conditions on the property, and lack of signage to warn of any hidden dangerous conditions on the property can be used to prove that the property owner breached a duty of care owed to a licensee.
Whether you are an invitee or licensee on the premises, the next step in winning your premises liability case in Pennsylvania is prove that the breach of the duty of care owed to you caused your injuries. Causation may be proven through your own testimony, during which you state how you were injured, eyewitness testimony of the incident causing your injury, medical records concerning your injury, and testimony of safety experts or other experts that can establish that the property owner’s failure to take certain steps led to the person suffering an injury.
Proving Actual Damages
Finally, in order to win a premises liability lawsuit in Pennsylvania, you must also prove that your injuries caused you actual damage. Actual damage can be established by showing the jury or judge photographs of the injury you sustained because of the dangerous condition on the property, the medical records, which describe the extent of your injuries and the medical treatment necessary to heal your injury, and the medical bills you incurred from treating the injury. These pieces of evidence will not only show that you suffered physical damage to your person, but will also show that you suffered monetary damage because you had to pay for medical treatment in order to treat your injury.
Contact a Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Premises Liability Case in Pennsylvania
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property in Pennsylvania? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Quinn Logue LLC represent clients injured because of dangerous conditions on someone else’s property in Pittsburgh, Bethel Park, Mount Lebanon, Wexford and throughout Pennsylvania. Call (412) 765-3800 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 200 First Avenue, 3rd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, as well as an office located in Scranton, PA.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.