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What Duty do Store Owners Owe Customers?

June 06, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In early April, a case about a man slipping on a wet floor in a pet store made news. The man was inside PetSmart and Banfield Pet Hospital for an appointment to get his Bullmastiff’s ears cleaned. As he held his dog’s head for examination, the man slipped and fell and hit his head. According to the lawsuit the man filed against PetSmart, the fall caused him to sustain serious injuries.

The lawsuit has been moved to federal court since the incident happened in Pennsylvania, but PetSmart’s headquarters are in Arizona. So, what duty of care did the store owe this man that ended up being injured on the property?

Negligence in Premises Liability Lawsuits

Nearly all personal injury cases rest on the concept of negligence, and premises liability is no different. Premises liability law states that all property owners or occupiers must ensure their property is safe for others to enter into at all times. When they fail to do so, the courts may find the property owner negligent. In order to prove negligence, an injured person must show:

  • The property owner or occupier had a duty of care to the injured individual.
  • The property owner breached, or failed to fulfill, that duty.
  • That breach caused someone else to suffer harm.
  • That harm resulted in actual injuries, damages, or losses.

Proving negligence is challenging in many personal injury cases. When the concept is applied to premises liability, the duty of care a property owner owes to visitors depends on the type of visitor coming onto the property.

Types of Visitors in Premises Liability Law

In Pennsylvania, visitors to a property are divided into three categories. These are: trespassers, licensees, and invitees. Trespassers are typically not entitled to any duty of care by the property owner, except in the case of children. Otherwise, as long as a property owner does not intentionally harm a trespasser, they owe them no greater duty of care.

Licensees are people that enter the property for their own personal gain, with the property owner’s permission. These individuals are owed a higher duty of care than trespassers. Property owners must warn licensees of any risks or hazards located on the property. Property owners only need to do this if they know of the risk of harm, and if the licensee is not likely to discover it on their own.

Property owners owe invitees the highest duty of care. An invitee is someone that enters a property with the intent to do business with the property owner. This can include retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and certainly the pet grooming services involved in the incident that occurred at PetSmart. Property owners inviting people onto their property to conduct business must ensure their property is in safe condition at all times.

Injured on Someone Else’s Property? Contact an Allentown Personal Injury Lawyer that can Help

If you’ve been hurt on someone else’s property, it’s possible you’re entitled to financial compensation to help you pay for your injuries. A skilled Allentown personal injury lawyer can help you claim all you are entitled to.

At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we are the personal injury attorneys that will fight for your rights. We’ll handle all negotiations with the other side and speak to the insurance company on your behalf to give you the best chance of success. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or fill out our online form so we can begin reviewing your case.



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