Imagine you are heading out to run routine errands. Walking into a store, you slip and fall on a broken sidewalk. You wonder if the store is responsible for your injuries. The type of law involved is called premises liability law. Experienced personal injury lawyers explain the basic principles of premises liability in Nevada.
What Type of Law Applies to Injuries on Property?
The type of law that applies to injuries on a property is called premises liability. When you’re hurt because of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, premises liability law may hold the property owner legally liable for the injuries that occur. Liability depends on state law, and there are significant differences in laws between states.
Premises Liability Law in Nevada
The basic principles of premises liability are:
- A property owner has a duty to keep their property safe for entrants
- However, they do not act as an insurer for all accidents on their property
- The standard is whether the property owner’s actions are unreasonable
- Reasonable conduct depends on the status of the visitor as an invitee, guest or trespasser
- Nevada does not apply the open and obvious doctrine to negate all liability on the property owner; the property owner must still act reasonably to protect entrants
- For legal liability to apply, the victim must prove that the property owner acted negligently
- The victim may collect compensatory damages, including reimbursement for financial losses and pain and suffering. Punitive damages may be appropriate for egregious conduct
- Nevada law 41.1411 for comparative negligence applies
Premises liability law in Nevada requires the victim to prove the following:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises
- The defendant knew or should have known about the hazardous condition
- An accident occurred
- The accident happened because of the dangerous condition on the property
- Injuries and damages result for the victim
Nevada Premises Liability Doctrine
Nevada premises liability doctrine has developed in case law and through Nevada statute 41.141 for comparative negligence. The doctrine creates an intermediate legal standard — an owner is not strictly liable for all accidents on their property.
However, owners have a significant legal duty to maintain a safe property to protect entrants to the property.
Examples of Premises Liability Law in Nevada
One example of premises liability law in Nevada is the Rolain v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc case2. In the Rolain case, the victim was walking to Walmart. As she walked through the parking lot, her foot got caught on a broken part of the asphalt. The plaintiff fell and sustained an injury.
She said that she was aware that the parking lot was kept in disrepair. However, she also reported that she was not looking down when she fell.
Open and Obvious Defense in Premises Liability Cases
Walmart Stores raised several issues in defense of the case. They said that the dangers in the parking lot were open and obvious. Because it was known that the parking lot was dangerous, the plaintiff should have been able to avoid it, they claimed. The court rejected the open and obvious defense, saying that it does not negate the defendant’s duty to care for their own property.
In rejecting the open and obvious doctrine, the court negated its previous ruling in Gunlock v. New Frontier Hotel, 78 Nev 182 (1962)3, where a property owner avoided liability based on the open and obvious doctrine. A victim wearing high heels tripped on a planter box and hit her head on a glass window. (Also see Foster v. Costco, 291 P.3d 150 (Nev. 2012)4, where the court rejected the open and obvious doctrine as a defense to premises liability, and Hammerstein v. Jean Dev. West, 111 Nev. 1471 (1995)5.)
Read More: Overcoming the Open and Obvious Doctrine
Assumption of the Risk/Secondary Assumption of the Risk in Premises Liability Cases
Another defense that Walmart raised in the Rolain case is assumption of the risk. The defense states that the victim assumes an inherent risk associated with an activity. For example, a spectator at a baseball game knows that there is a chance that they could get hit by a foul ball. The Rolain court said that Nevada law has never applied the assumption of the risk doctrine to slip and fall cases.
Similarly, secondary assumption of the risk is the idea that a defendant bears no liability where the victim voluntarily encounters a known risk. For example, even if Walmart allows the cracks to develop in the parking lot, it is the victim who willingly exposes themselves to the danger with actual knowledge of the risk.
The Rolain court said that secondary assumption of the risk is a question for the jury to decide. They declined to award summary disposition on the basis of secondary assumption of the risk.
Although not raised in the Rolain case, another common defense to a premises liability case is an intervening cause. The defense challenges the relationship between the negligence of the property owner and the injuries of the victim.
The defense claims that there is an unforeseeable intervening cause that is truly responsible for the victim’s injuries.
Damages Available in Nevada Premises Liability Cases
The victim in a Nevada premises liability case may claim a range of damages, including:
- Emergency medical bills, ambulance costs
- Long-term medical bills
- Unearned income because of injuries
- Physical therapy
- Treatment for mental injuries
- Property damages
- Payment for loss of lifestyle, physical limitations or disfigurement
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
Damages are proportional to the victim’s actual injuries and losses.
How Can an Attorney Help With a Premises Liability Claim in Nevada?
An attorney can help you evaluate and pursue your claim for premises liability. They can help you determine what elements are necessary to prove and assist you with the practical steps of filing a claim. If you have been injured in an accident that occurred because of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, get answers from Nevada premises liability attorneys.
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