When is a Property Owner Liable for Injuries?

Our Injury Attorney in Nashville Explains Premises Liability Law

If you sustain an injury on someone else’s property through no fault of your own, the property owner bears responsibility for the harm that occurred. This applies to both private homeowners and business owners, although businesses owe a greater duty to guests than residential homeowners. This is because the business specifically invites customers into their stores to make money.

Hotel owners, for example, are responsible for providing safe, hazard-free rooms to their guests. As long as the guest behaves in a reasonable manner, the owner could be liable for injuries or deaths that occur onsite.

Liability for Guest on Property Injuries

According to a recent court decision, however, business owners are not always responsible for slip-and-fall injuries at hotels. A guest who became paralyzed in a logging truck accident rented a handicapped room at a Nashville Holiday Inn and noticed that the bench in the shower seemed loose. He told management, and after the staff tightened the bench, he collapsed while showering and sustained an injury to his spinal cord.

The lower court cleared the hotel owner, saying that it was the general contractor’s fault for using defective products. The appeals court reversed on the grounds that the property owner should have known about the dangerous condition. The Tennessee Supreme Court, however, sided with the hotel owner because laws do not require the hotel owner to inspect the safety of the building’s construction after its completion.

What are the Tennessee Laws for Premises Liability?

Considering what the law says about premises liability for businesses, this is a curious decision and is not likely to be the outcome of most hotel injury cases. According to state laws, the injured person must both establish negligence and prove one of the following two elements:

  1. The property owner, operator or his agent must have created or caused the dangerous condition, or:
  2. If someone else created the dangerous condition, the owner must have had “constructive notice” that the condition existed

To establish negligence, the injured person must prove that the following existed:

  • A duty of care owed to the victim (i.e. inviting guests onto property)
  • Substandard conduct that breaches the duty of care
  • Injury, losses or damage
  • The breach of care caused the injury (cause in fact)
  • The property owner’s negligence was the main contributor to the injury (proximate cause)

Do I Have a Case Against a Property Owner?

Since each case is different, the best way to tell if you have a valid premises liability case is to consult with an attorney. Most injury attorneys offer free consultations, and since most of them operate on a contingency fee basis, they only take cases likely to succeed for their clients. In these cases, lawyers do not charge attorney fees; rather, they would receive a portion of your verdict or settlement.