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What's 'premises liability' and how does it work in Pennsylvania?


While residents of Berks County, Pennsylvania, may have heard the term "premises liability" thrown around by attorneys and other people involved in the legal or insurance professions, they may not realize what exactly the term covers.

Basically, "premises liability" is a legal doctrine which holds that landowners in Pennsylvania, such as those in Berks County, have an obligation to keep their premises reasonably safe for those who come on to the property. This is true for homeowners, residential landlords and business owners.

As in many other states, the level of care a landowner has to exercise depends on a number of factors and especially depends on the circumstances that lead to why a person is on the landowner's property. Those who have no permission to be on the land, or "trespassers," have little protection, as the landowner need only avoid "wanton" conduct that winds up injuring the trespasser. Basically, though, a trespasser enters property at his or her own risk.

Licensees, on the other hand, have permission to be on the landowner's land, even if the landowner has not an shown express desire that they do so. A licensee could, for example, include a mail carrier or someone with the utility company. A landowner has on obligation to warn such people of a dangerous property condition if the landowner knows about the condition. However, there is no obligation to actually detect and repair hazards.

Invitees are those whom the landowner shows some desire to have on the land, whether they are members of the public, like customers, or invited guests in to one's home. The landowner must take reasonable steps to make and keep the property safe.

The important thing to remember is that a Berks County resident who gets injured on another's land may have a legal right to get compensation for his or her injuries. In this respect, it might be beneficial to consult an experienced lawyer to determine if one has a valid premises liability claim.

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