Under West Virginia law, property owners have a duty to their visitors to take reasonable measures to make the area reasonably free of hazardous conditions. When they breach this duty, and a visitor is injured as a result, the property owner may be held liable for the injured person's damages. This is known as the legal theory of premises liability, and it looks pretty simple on the surface. Like so many things in the law however, premises liability can be a lot more complicated than it may at first seem.
Recently in West Virginia court, a woman filed a personal injury suit against a cafeteria, claiming that she was sustained injuries to her knees and back when she slipped on a wet floor. According to the woman's complaint, she was helping the cafeteria to reopen at the time of the accident. She claims that the cafeteria management did not warn her or anyone else of the hazardous condition created by the wet floor.
Premises liability often comes up in cases involving a slip and fall at a restaurant or grocery store. Property owners at these establishments have a duty to their customers to take reasonable steps to avoid accidents. This means, among other things, cleaning up spills as soon as possible, so that customers won't slip on them, fall and hurt themselves.
However, a property owner's duty is often dependent on how the person came to be on the property. A property owner has a clear duty to customers, sometimes called "business invitees" in legal terminology. On the other hand, the property owner has very little duty toward trespassers. In deciding what duty the property owner owed to the injured person, the court must consider what the person was doing on the property.
In the case of the woman injured at the cafeteria, the court would need to consider why and how she was helping the cafeteria to reopen.
People who are injured on another's property can be left with serious injuries that rack up huge medical bills. They may have to miss work because of their injuries, thereby suffering lost wages. These damages can add up quickly. A premises liability lawsuit can help the injured to recover some of these damages. A West Virginia attorney with experience in premises liability can help the injured to understand how the law might apply to their circumstances and to assess their legal options.
Source: The West Virginia Record, "Woman files suit after fall at cafeteria," Ben Hart, Feb. 20, 2014