Oklahoma Premises Liability Scenarios
Recently, a fire in Oklahoma City incinerated part of a school building. Fortunately, the building was empty at the time. Preliminary investigations suspect arson to be the cause of the conflagration. The city’s school district stopped using the building years ago. Recently, the district agreed to lease the site to an education company for child tutoring services. If any occupants had been hurt, the school district might have faced major liability for injured children and employees.
Premises liability is a section of negligence law that holds landlords responsible for injuries on commercial, residential, or government property for their “lack of due care under the circumstances” — which can involve varied situations like slip and falls, electrical hazards, dog bites, or swimming pool accidents. A landlord is not obligated to guarantee its occupants’ total safety — but it is generally obligated to keep the property free from dangers less obvious to the occupants.
The initial consideration for determining landlord liability is the purpose a person has for being on the property. Generally, there are three kinds of occupants, including:
- Invitee — On the property at the owner’s general invitation to promote its commercial interest, like the paying fan at a sporting event or a supermarket customer. For invitees, the landlord has the highest legal duty — to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition and to eliminate dangers that it knew about or should have discovered.
- Licensee — On the property with the owner’s express or implied consent, but not in furtherance of the owner's commercial interest. For instance, someone breaking change at a gas station, or a social guest at your home. Owners owe them a lesser duty than invitees, but a greater duty of care than to trespassers — to disclose more subtle, if not hidden dangers, but not necessarily to fix them.
- Trespasser — A person who enters the property without authority, is owed a very limited duty by the owner, to prevent only purposeful injuries, like physical assault.
In the case of a residential lease, a landlord’s responsibility to maintain the property can include the duty to maintain common areas, like garages and even the rental unit under the tenant’s control. Generally, any occupant hurt by a dangerous condition who wishes to obtain compensation must prove the landlord had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous circumstance. If the condition existed for enough time, and the landlord failed to fix it, the landlord may be on “constructive” notice of the condition — like faulty stairway guardrails or an intruder lurking on the premises.
Increase the likelihood that you will receive fair compensation in Oklahoma for your premises liability injuries. Contact The Barkett Law Firm in Tulsa today.