No. Anyone who owns or occupies a piece of property has a duty of reasonable care to people they invite onto their land. The landowner or occupier must keep his premises in a reasonably safe condition and if there is a known problem warn his guests about the danger.
Therefore, it doesn't matter if someone is in his friend's living room or at a big supermarket chain. Whoever invited him owes the duty of care.
There are different standards in this case because there are three basic types of people and duties in Indiana. Invitees are people who walk into a business or people who are invited, like social guests into someone's home. The other two are the licensee and the trespasser.
A licensee is someone who comes on the property for their own convenience. Note that this depends upon many circumstances, like what actually happens or what brings them to the actual premises. The duty is to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring him or acting in a manner to increase his peril. The landowner must also warn of any latent or hidden dangers on the property.
The duty toward a trespasser is the lowest because the trespasser should not be on the land. The property owner owes a trespasser the duty to refrain from willfully or wantonly (intentionally) injuring him after discovering his presence. It is fine if the premises are unsafe, except if the trespasser is a younger individual. In this case, the younger individual can come under a doctrine called the “Attractive Nuisance” doctrine.
This attractive nuisance doctrine can be seen in examples with farmer's fields or ponds on people's land. Although they might have a sign warning trespassers, they would still have a duty to block the area off so a young child or a young teen would not be able to trespass and perhaps drown in the pond.
The duty from the owner toward an invitee is the highest. The duty lies in keeping the premises in a reasonably safe condition, free of all defects, and danger and warning people who come onto the premises about any type of hidden defects.
If a person had a trampoline and the invited person was one of the person's kid's friends who had been to the house five or six times before, then there might be an issue if that child decided to use trampoline on their own.
Many more commercial premises liability cases are filed than residential. If somebody got hurt while visiting a home, and the owner had homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance, then often, there will be some insurance for the medical expenses. Note that a person does not have to claim or sue for these medical expenses, because he is covered under medical payments coverage. The medical expenses would be paid up to $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the insurance and regardless of fault.
If someone had a sunken living room, and a guest stepped down and fractured his ankle and went to the hospital, then the medical payments coverage would pay for that medical care.
Busy stores like Wal-Mart have more incidents, especially the older Wal-Mart stores, because they used to stack things very high on the shelves, and the stores were very crowded. With such store congestion, there is a greater chance of things falling on the floor or products breaking.
Afterward, in many cases, the sales associate cannot get to the area quick enough to clean it up, put a cone out, or warn anyone.
Normally, this occurs in stores without good upkeep. Stores with a high number of sales associates who walk their floors to make sure things are safe to do a lot better than some other types of stores.
The case is always based on facts.
It's essential, for example, to determine how long a foreign transitory substance, such as water or something that fell off the shelf, was on the floor. Furthermore, other clues include tire tracks going through the liquid, areas that were dried up, or prior complaints and witnesses who declared that somebody did not clean the spill up properly.
One case in a grocery store went like this: somebody dropped a bottle of olive oil before the store opened. Although the staff had allegedly cleaned it up, my client took three steps through that area and fell baldy enough to injure her knee severely. It was shown that the store had noticed the problem but did not clean it up well. As such, she was able to receive a recovery from her knee injury.
In another case, a client went to commercial premises after hours to drop something off in the night deposit box. There was no overhang in the area. Therefore, during the day the water from a snowstorm a few days earlier dripped off the roof. The water froze at night. The client stood on the slab and fell badly, becoming severely injured.
A person does not have a duty to report it.
However, this is different if someone had seen a hazard and not reported it, before hurting himself on the hazard three minutes later.
If someone was shopping in a grocery store and saw a problem but did not see a clerk to report it, and somebody came by 10 minutes later and hurt himself on it, then the initial person did not have a duty to notify the store.
Are Stores Who Always Watch, Walk The Floor, And Check Less Likely To Have Problems?
The stores that are much more conscientious are less likely to have these kinds of issues.
That is a difficult question to answer, we like to think not, but I have had cases where I've been told for years that a video of the incident did not exist only to learn on that eve of trial that a video did exist.
Nobody thinks of filing a claim, especially when they fall down, because most people are embarrassed and want to get up as fast as they can and go about their business. However, a person who falls has the responsibility to document what actually happened.
After a person falls, he needs to look around to see if there was a video. Many times after someone has been injured in a store or commercial property, the video camera will either get taped over or not capture the incident. Alternately, they might say that the footage was not usable. There are sometimes issues with a lack of evidence, either on the part of the store or the part of the individual.
In grocery stores, people generally hurt themselves when something has fallen off the shelf, something has broken and was not cleaned up properly, or there is a problem with the displays. For instance, in a number of cases, the meat cooler or the refrigeration unit near the cash register leaks, allowing a dangerous condition to exist.
The issue is this: a lot of times, the accident is not the responsibility of the grocery store. Oftentimes, the coolers are the responsibility of the vendor, which makes these cases more complicated.
Think of it this way: there is a cooler near the cash counter with coke products and Dasani water, placed there by Coca-Cola. The delivery person is supposed to inspect and fill the cooler on a daily basis. In this case, the store may not be responsible. An injured person will have to file a claim against the store and the vendor.
Many times, the vendor arranges products in an aisle of the store, like cans of dog food aligned in a stack.
For these reasons a person injured in a store must get at much information as possible so the lawyer can put the proper parties on notice of the claim.
Most major stores have policies and procedures about what to do if somebody claims injury, and one such policy is to photograph the area.
I've dealt with these issues often. As such, I am familiar with the store policies and I can name at least 15 stores that require their sales associates to take photos of the area and send them to risk management. It's essential to do this or to ask anyone with a camera in the area to take a photo of the scene. As time goes on, memories fade by photos will properly document the scene of the accident.
In Indiana, a person must testify that the picture fairly and accurately represents what the picture portends to represent, and the photograph is admissible.
Therefore, if someone fell and said he took the photo when he got up; if garbage is on the floor, and the image fairly and accurately represents what the floor looked like after the person fell, then the pictures are admissible.
This is a loaded question. A person must get checked out immediately if he is claiming an injury. If the date or the time of an incident is point one, then the person should get medical attention as close to point one as possible.
This is better for two reasons. Firstly, he could be really hurt and not know. Secondly, the further away he gets from the date of the incident, the more likely the other side will argue, saying that if there was a real injury, the person would have received medical care sooner.
If someone gets medical attention within 72 hours of an accident, then an insurance company or lawyer cannot make a big deal because the average person would say that he thought he was going to be okay directly after the accident, and that when he woke up the next day, he was sore. Afterward, he made an appointment to see the doctor. Naturally, it took a day or two to get in.
The problem with proof in a slip and fall claim is that when most people fall down, no matter how injured they are, they get up and say things that ultimately hurt their cases. They always state that they are fine, and they try to continue with their lives.
It is natural they want to be okay because they are embarrassed about the fall.
This question is important. The client can tell the attorney or send an investigator to take some photos. However, nothing takes the place of just sitting at the cluttered store and watching.