Some Premises Liability Basics In Minnesota
Falls kill over 36,000 people a year, making these incidents the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Both the likelihood of injury, and the severity of injury increases with age. In fact, the majority of people over 65 who fall can no longer live independently. Fall victims, both young and old, often suffer severe injuries in these cases. Compensation is available for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, including loss of enjoyment in life.
What Causes Slip and Falls in Minneapolis?
Physical property defects cause many falls. A slightly uneven walking space throws off a person’s natural gait, causing many people to lose balance. Poor property maintenance is a related category. That could include things like cracks in outdoor walkways, small depressions where water collects and freezes, untrimmed shrubbery that impedes visibility, and poorly-lit staircases.
Simple carelessness is probably the biggest cause of falls in Minnesota. For example, a burned-out parking lot light in an apartment building’s parking lot makes walking to and from a car all but impossible, especially since parking lots contain so many uneven surfaces.
Landowners are generally responsible for all these injuries. In a related matter, landlords are often responsible for their party crimes as well. Liability attaches if the owner:
- Had a duty to protect the victim/plaintiff (g. a landlord or hotel owner),
- Knew about the possibility of injury, perhaps because of similar incidents on the property or at a nearby location, and
- Failed to enact protective measures.
In the burned-out light example, if someone used the darkness to attack the victim/plaintiff and there had been other nighttime assaults in the area, the apartment owner may be liable for damages.
Duty in Minnesota Premises Liability Claims
To determine legal responsibility, the Gopher State employs a streamlined version of a common law classification system that’s been used for centuries.
- Entrant: If the person has permission to be on the land, the owner has a duty of reasonable care. This category combines the old licensee and invitee categories. There is a very fine distinction between the two that is difficult for many jurors to understand.
- Trespasser: If the individual has no permission to be on the land, the owner generally has no duty. One exception is the attractive nuisance rule that applies to many child trespassers. Moreover, if the owner had actual knowledge of a defect, and actually knew that the condition was likely to cause serious injury or death, liability may attach.
Actual or constructive knowledge (knew or should have known) is usually sufficient to establish liability in entrant damage claims.
Some Minnesota Insurance Company Defenses
A good premises liability attorney must do more than put together a compelling claim based on the facts and the applicable law. A lawyer should also be ready for some common insurance company defenses in these matters. These doctrines include:
- Obvious Hazards: Low-hanging branches and other such dangers require no warning because any victim should be able to see them and avoid them.
- Assumption of the Risk: This doctrine applies if the victim voluntarily assumed a known risk. Written waivers are often not “voluntary” because they are take-it-or-leave-it contracts of adhesion. Furthermore, very few risks are “known” except for items like sports injuries to football players.
- Lack of Notice: Some landowners argue that they had neither actual nor constructive knowledge of the hazard or that the hazard was not dangerous.
These defenses are usually not difficult to overcome because the burden of proof is so low in civil cases (a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not).
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Landowners are usually liable for dangerous conditions on their property. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Minnesota, contact the Gunther Law Office. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury cases.