Slip and Fall and Premises Liability Claims - Part 1
I get calls every week from people who have fallen or otherwise been injured due to a premises defect. Generally, these cases are called slip & fall claims. This is because many times a person has fallen due to a slick substance on the floor.
Premises liability claims are difficult claims to successfully pursue in Texas. This is because of the heavy burden on the person injured.
In order to be compensated for their damages, the injured person has to jump through several hoops. First, Texas law puts each person into one of three categories: You are either an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser. These are legal terms and don't mean what a lay person might think they mean.
An invitee is generally thought of as a business customer. If you go into a department store to shop, you are an invitee. To be an invitee there has to be a mutual benefit between the premises owner and the person coming onto the premises.
A licensee is generally considered to be a social guest. The benefit flows only one way - to the person coming onto the premises, not to the premises owner.
A trespasser is everyone else. For purposes of premises liability, there does not have to be a sign saying "stay out" or "posted." If you are not considered an invitee or licensee, you are a trespasser.
And, you can be an invitee for some purposes and a trespasser for others. For example, you go into the department store to shop. When you are in the sales area you are an invitee. But, if you went into the stock room, you would most likely become a trespasser. (Unless an employee invited you into the off-limits area.)
How you are classified determines what care a premises owner owes to you. If you are an invitee, the premises owner can be held liable for your damages if he knows or should have known of a dangerous condition that ultimately injures you.
If you are a licensee, the premises owner only owes you a duty to warn you of dangers he knows about.
If you are a trespasser, the premises owner only owes you a duty not to cause you injury due to his intentional act.
Once the court has categorized the injured person, it can begin the process of determining if the premises owner is legally liable for the injuries. That process will be explained in Part 2.