WHO IS THE PROPER DEFENDANT IN PREMISES LIABILITY CASES?
When a slip and fall incident occurs, determining who the proper defendant in premises liability cases and who is to be named in the lawsuit is complicated. Multiple parties may bear responsibility for the safety of the premises. The possible defendants in a slip and fall case may include: the property owner, business operator, employer, property management company, contractors performing services on the premises, and even a manufacturer or supplier of any floor care products, flooring or footwear involved in the incident.
The business owner or a social host may be held liable for the injuries of a patron or guest. While defense counsel will argue that an owner or possessor of land or business is not an insurer of the safety of persons on the premises, a business owner in fact does have a duty of reasonable care to protect against known or reasonably foreseeable risks. Pursuant to California Civil Code section 1714(a): “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.” Moreover, this duty not only relates to the condition of the premises, but may also include the duty to prevent third party criminal conduct under certain circumstances.
MUST THE DEFENDANT HAVE OWNERSHIP OF THE PROPERTY IN A PREMISES LIABILITY CASE?
When it comes to premises liability cases, it is not necessary that the defendant be the owner of the premises to be liable to an injured plaintiff. The critical fact is who has possession and control of the premises at the time of the accident.
Either an owner or an occupier of property can be liable in a premises liability case. The key fact is who has control or should have controlled the property at the time of the incident.