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An introduction to business premises liability in Ohio

Premises liability is an area of negligence law covering liability for injury on the property or business of another because of that party’s failure to follow safety practices.

Business owners and operators have the legal duty to maintain a reasonably safe premise for guests, customers and patrons. If a business like a retail store, restaurant, theater, parking ramp or hotel breaches this duty and a customer is injured as a result, the business owner or operator may be liable in a premises liability lawsuit.

Examples of the kinds of mishaps that cause injury on commercial premises in a claim like this include:

  • Slipping and falling on an unmarked, wet surface
  • Slipping and falling on a piece of produce like a grape
  • Tripping on an uneven floor
  • Falling because of a pothole or uneven walkway in the business parking lot or walkway
  • Being the victim of crime or violence in a commercial parking lot due to inadequate lighting or security or where the business did not post warnings of local criminal activity
  • Failure to maintain aspects of the property like handrails, steps, escalators or elevators

Premises liability is a type of negligence claim. To prove a premises liability case against a business, the injured party – the plaintiff – must show by a preponderance of the evidence that:

  • The business owner or operator – the defendant – owed the customer or patron – also called a business invitee – a duty of care to keep the premises reasonably safe.
  • The defendant breached that duty.
  • The breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.

For the business to meet its duty to protect its patrons, it must inspect its premises to uncover dangerous conditions and take reasonable steps – ordinary care – to prevent customer exposure to reasonably foreseeable risks. Depending on the circumstances, it may be reasonable to either fix the problem or to clearly warn of its danger.

Should the business fail to conduct reasonable inspections of its premises and because of that miss a dangerous condition, if a customer is injured because of that condition, the business may be liable based on constructive knowledge – that it should have known about it.

The law does not require a business to completely insure against all potential dangers. It must take reasonable precautions and use ordinary care. If a condition is open and obvious to the customer but the customer does not react to avoid it that may relieve the business owner of liability.

Each of these cases is very factually specific and the law is complex, so an injured customer should consult an attorney to understand what potential legal remedies may be available to an injured patron.

The attorneys at Colley Shroyer & Abraham in Columbus represent people throughout Ohio in premises liability claims and other types of personal injury lawsuits.