When considering who may be held responsible for injuries to invitees on real property that they do not own, it can be tempting to think that anyone and everyone involved in the use, control and ownership of the property is a potential defendant. As Ohio courts have interpreted this state’s premises liability law, however, this may not be the case in actual practice. Instead, under some circumstances an owner of property may not be responsible for the injuries to people on that property if the landowner did not actually exercise occupation and control over the property.
It is often the case today that a business leases the property it occupies instead of owning it. When a customer of that business is injured on the premises, this raises the question of whether not only the business owner but also the property owner can be held liable for damages. Ohio courts have held that a landowner can be responsible to warn invitees of dangers on the property it knows about which are latent or hidden in nature. But beyond that limited sense, the liability of the landowner for the negligence of others who actually occupy and control the land is considerably less likely
The test of who is responsible for premises liability depends on who has the physical and actual power and right to admit people onto or to exclude them from the premises. Unless it can be shown that the landowner had this power – and the basic rights of a landowner or landlord, such as the right to inspect the premises or to approve of structural changes does not qualify – then it may prove difficult to extend premises liability past the occupier of the property to the actual owner of it.
Identifying the property parties to a premises liability lawsuit depends on the particular facts of each case, and you should not take this post to be conclusive as to your individual situation or as legal advice. If you believe that you have a premises liability cause of action against an owner or occupier of property, you should consult with an attorney experienced in this area of law to review your options.