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Does a property owner have a duty to prevent injury?

It is not uncommon for Pennsylvania residents to enter the property of another. Whether it is a home, school, or business, a visitor expects that it is safe to enter the premises. But when an accident occurs, an injured party might question the obligations of a property owner.

Does a property owner have a duty to prevent injury? Yes, but it depends on the category an individual falls under.

With regard to invitees, which is anyone invited onto the premises, a property owner has the legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the environment for patrons. Reasonableness is measured by what a person of ordinary intelligence and judgment would do under similar circumstances. Failure to conduct regular inspections, maintenance and cleaning could create hazards, leading to an injury causing accident.

The next category is licensee, which is someone who is allowed on a premise for social purposes or for their own purposes. In these circumstances, property owners must ensure that the property is safe. But, the property owner has a lessened duty of care to licensees than that owed to invitees. A property owner only must take reasonable steps to protect licensees from known hazards, but does not have to inspect for or discover unknown dangers, which is required for invitees.

The third category is trespassers, which is a person who does not have permission to be on the property. In these cases, the property owner does not have to protect the trespasser, but they are not authorized to willfully injure a trespasser. Despite that, if a property owner knows there are dangerous conditions on the property and there are frequent incidents of trespassers on the property, the property owner should take reasonable care to warn trespassers of the dangerous condition.

No matter what category an individual falls under, if a person is injured on someone else's property, the owner could be found negligent and could face a premises liability suit.

Source:, "Property Owners' Legal Duty to Prevent Injury," accessed on Jan. 26, 2015

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