Every year, countless Missouri residents suffer serious injuries because property owners and occupants – including businesses, shopping malls, hotels and other areas open to the public – fail to address dangerous conditions on their properties. What may seem harmless at first glance – a cracked sidewalk, a slippery floor or a malfunctioning lamp in a parking lot – can cause broken bones, back injuries or worse. Indeed, something as innocuous as loose carpeting on a stairway can cause debilitating injuries, making work difficult and requiring thousands of dollars in medical care.
Fortunately, like other states, Missouri provides injured parties an opportunity to bring suit against negligent landowners and occupants. These sorts of cases are generally referred to as premises liability or slip and fall cases. When accidents happen, property owners and occupants may be liable for medical expenses, pain and suffering and more.
Who Is Responsible?
Under Missouri law, the proper defendant in slip and fall cases is the party who had possession or control of the premises where the injury occurred. In other words, determining who may be at fault is not as simple as looking at who owns the property, but requires rather a determination of who was in actual possession or control of the property.
This means, for example, that a landlord who has leased a piece of property to a tenant and who does not maintain control of the property – as is often the case with many businesses, including shopping malls – may not be responsible for an injury to a visitor. Of course, the determination of who may be liable to an injured party can be difficult and may require a thorough examination of Missouri law.
What Duties Do Property Owners and Occupants Owe to Guests and Visitors?
The liability of property owners and occupants for injuries suffered by their guests and visitors stems from the fact that they owe invitees a particular duty of care. Generally speaking, this means that those in possession or control of a premises must use reasonable care to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. This means that they must either:
- Use ordinary care to identify and repair dangers on the premises
- Warn guests and visitors of known dangers, provided that the guests and visitors will not discover or realize the danger or will fail to protect themselves against it.
Thus, injured guests and visitors must demonstrate the following for their claim to succeed against the party who owns or occupies the premises:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises
- The party in possession or control of the premises knew or should have known about the condition
- The party in possession failed to use ordinary care to remove, remedy or warn of the danger
- As a result, the plaintiff was injured
What Constitutes a Dangerous Condition?
Most of the time, what constitutes a dangerous condition is fairly clear: slippery floors, poorly maintained stairways and cracked sidewalks are all common causes of accidents and injuries for which those possessing or controlling a premises may be liable.
In some circumstances, however, a party in possession or control of a piece of property may be liable for the criminal acts of third parties. In order to bring a successful claim for injury, a plaintiff must generally demonstrate a sufficient history of incidents of violent character as to render violent crime in general to be foreseeable at the location. These sorts of claims can often be difficult to prove, however.
What Damages Are Available to Injured Parties?
Under Missouri law, a successful plaintiff in a slip and fall case can recover damages proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence. This generally includes medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and even future damages like lost earning capacity and future medical treatment.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love suffered an injury because of a dangerous condition at someone’s home or business, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer can assess your case and help you determine which steps to take next. Injured parties generally have five years to file a premises liability lawsuit in Missouri, so time is of the essence. For more information, contact an attorney today.