The Holidays are a wonderful time! We visit our families, we celebrate with our friends, weshop – a lot! With increased activities, deadlines, and all the “to dos” we tend to get a little distracted, making us vulnerable to slip-ups and accidents. Whether you are an individual who is injured on someone else’s property, a business owner, or even if you plan on hosting a party in your own home, it is beneficial to know the laws governing premise liability.
In Louisiana, public and private property owners owe varying “duties of care” to certain types of property visitors. A “duty of care” is the legal responsibility a person or party has to act reasonably and prevent foreseeable injury or harm.
First, the state of Louisiana defines three types of property visitors:
Louisiana property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees, followed by licensees. While property owners must ensure reasonably safe premises for invitees, they must only warn licensees of potential hazards and unreasonable injury. Trespassers are owed little to no duty, with the exception of children in certain circumstances.
Premises liability laws in Louisiana require property owners to provide a relatively safe environment on their property or warn others of unsafe conditions that the property owner knew about. A property owner who fails to do this may be liable if someone is injured on his orher property. In order to prevail on a claim for injury, one must prove three requirements for asuccessful premises liability claim:
For injuries sustained on the premises of a merchant (whose business it is to sell goods, foods, wares, or merchandise at a fixed place of business), a special statute, The Louisiana MerchantLiability Act, governs accidents that occur in the aisles of merchants’ stores. As per the statute,a merchant owes a duty to persons who use his or her premises to exercise reasonable care to keep aisles, passageways, and floors in a reasonably safe condition. This duty includes a reasonable effort to keep this premises free of any hazardous conditions which reasonably might give rise to the damage.
In order to prevail in a claim against a merchant, a person who slips and falls on a merchant’s premises due to a condition that existed on the premises must prove all of the following:
1. The condition presented a reasonably foreseeable, but unreasonable risk of harm to the customer.
2. Before the fall, the merchant either created or had actual or “constructive notice” of the dangerous condition that caused the fall, and failed to remedy the condition or warn patrons of its existence. The merchant has constructive notice of the condition, if the condition existed for some time and could have been discovered had the merchant exercised reasonable care.
3. The merchant failed to exercise reasonable care vis-à-vis the dangerous condition, suchas failing to inspect the aisles and floors for potential or existing hazardous conditionand/or not cleaning or maintaining the aisles, floors and shelving.
Even if the injured party in any type of these premise liability cases is able to establish fault on the part of the business, or residential, owner, he/she can only be awarded damages for the portion of fault that can be attributed to the owner. Louisiana law applies comparative negligence to personal injury actions. What this means is that any amount of fault for the accident is apportioned only upon a percentage of fault, which can be that of the injured party. According to Louisiana Civil Code Article 2323: "If a person suffers injury, death, or loss as the result partly of his own negligence and partly as a result of the fault of another person or persons, the amount of damages recoverable shall be reduced in proportion to the degree or percentage of negligence attributable to the person suffering the injury, death, or loss."
Finally, any and all lawsuits for injuries sustained on the property of another must be filed within one year from the date of the accident. If a lawsuit is filed even one day after this deadline,it will be dismissed as being untimely and the injured party cannot collect any damages for his or her injuries.
We hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season! As always, The LawQueens are available for all your legal needs!