Who Is Liable for Slip and Fall Injuries to Guests and Trespassers?

bottaro with client

Did you get injured on property owned by another and wonder whether the landowner or landlord was negligent? Let’s take a closer look at the RI premises liability law and how it may apply to you.

Duties to Trespassers and Guests

Rhode Island law distinguishes a landowner’s duties to trespassers and invited guests. A landowner owes a duty to invited guests to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition.

To trespassers, the landowner’s duty arises only when the landowner knows of potential dangers on the property. This is the “discovered trespasser” rule, which places a duty on the landowner to refrain from willful and wanton conduct regarding a known danger on the property that a trespasser may encounter.

Duties for Clearing Snow and Ice of Landlords and Business Owners

Following a storm or other natural events, a landlord has a duty to use reasonable care to clear snow and ice and ensure that common areas are kept reasonably safe from associated dangers. The landlord can be held liable for injuries that tenants suffer when the landlord fails in his duty. A landlord must clear snow and ice within a “reasonable time” after the storm ends, except in unusual circumstances.

The same rule applies to a business owner who invites customers onto his property during a storm.

Under unusual circumstances, the landowner’s or business owner’s duty may arise during a storm.  For example, in Terry v. Central Auto Radiators, a woman dropped off her car at a repair shop during a snowstorm. When she returned the car was repaired but parked 100 feet away in a back lot covered with snow and ice. The storm was still active.  Even though the storm had not ended, the business owner’s duty to keep his premises safe kicked in when he asked the woman to retrieve her car, knowing that the back lot was snowy and icy and had not been cleared.

Duties to Invited Recreational Users

Private landowners who make their land available for public recreational use, without charge, have limited liability to users who become injured on the property. For example, a private landowner may allow the public to hike, bike, or hunt on the land, or access a waterfront by walking across the property. In these circumstances, the landowner’s duty is similar to the “discovered trespasser” rule. While the landowner has no duty to ensure that the land is safe for public use, the landowner does have a duty after discovering potentially dangerous conditions, for willful or malicious conduct such as failing to provide proper warnings.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 32-6-5.

If you have suffered personal injuries by entering on another person’s property and believe the landowner or landlord is at fault, contact the experienced attorneys at the Bottaro Law Firm, LLC today to determine how the RI premises liability laws apply to you, and how to seek the justice you deserve.