At some point either at a party or amongst coworkers, you are bound to hear a story about a burglar that was attempting to rob a house by breaking in through a skylight. Something in their grand plan goes wrong, and they fall through the skylight. They sustain some form of injuries from the fall. And then they decide to sue the homeowner for their damages based on premise liability. This entire situation seems so wrong, right? Could this possibly happen? Honestly, the answer is yes. But don’t jump to any conclusions yet. A burglar may have the opportunity to sue you, the chance that they will win their case is very slight. There are, of course, cases where this has happened, but most often when a situation like this is brought before a court, it is thrown out before it can proceed much further.
So what exactly does premise liability entail?
The duty of care of homeowners and store owners is to provide a safe space for people that are invited onto their property for a specific purpose. This could be house guests, friends of your children who come over for a playdate, or your hired lawn men or pool cleaner. In each of these cases, these are people that you are expecting and have asked to come onto your property. The duty of care also falls onto the areas that surround your home. For example, shoveling snow from your driveway and sidewalks and keeping sidewalks from being trip hazards.
However, for trespassers or people that break the law in your home, the same liability is not there. If you have a piece of property that is regularly trespassed upon, it is the landowner’s responsibility to post no trespassing signs and to warn people of danger if they do trespass. Where a burglar or trespasser may have an opportunity to sue a homeowner is if the area has been booby-trapped. As funny as Kevin McCallister made this look in the movie Home Alone, Marv and Harry would have had a good case against him for their injuries. We hope this helps you understand a bit more about premise liability.