Texans who get injured as a result of the negligence of the owner or operator of a business premises find themselves having to overcome high hurdles in order to be compensated for their injuries. The victim must first prove that they were the “business invitee” of the Defendant. This requires proof that the injured person was on the business premises in furtherance of the business purposes of the business entity. Establishing that the injured was a business invitee is usually the least of the victim’s problems.
Next the injured customer must prove that they were injured by an unreasonably dangerous condition or “defect” in the premises and that the business knew or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known of the existence of the defect and failed to either correct the defect or warn its customers of the defect. Whether the condition constitutes an unreasonably dangerous defect turns on what the ordinary customer would reasonably expect and appreciate under the circumstances. For example, the ordinary customer would reasonably expect that the accumulation of ice on a sidewalk during a Texas ice storm would be slippery and thus the condition does not constitute a premises defect even though it is obviously dangerous. By contrast, invisible “black ice” may result in liability if the injured customer can show that the business owner was on notice of the condition.
Texas’ conservative courts have expanded the notion that ice may not constitute a premises defect to other accumulations of natural substances to the point that circumstances involving accumulations of mud and rainwater have been held not to be premises defects. The analysis of the condition of a business premises is complicated by the fact that a business owner owes no duty to correct or warn of an “open and obvious” defect. Thus injured customers find themselves arguing that the owner should have known of a condition or defect while at the same time arguing that it was hidden as far as the customer was concerned. Customers injured by malfunctioning equipment or the design of the premises are more likely to be successful. Customers injured by foreign substances such as spills may have a difficult time placing the owner on notice of the defect.
Studies have consistently shown that the business wins premises liability cases 80 -90% of the time. Nonetheless, we are almost always successful in premises cases. I usually approach these cases by asking my client to tell me what the business did wrong that caused their injuries. If the victims can show the jury in simple terms what the business did wrong and how that caused the injuries the victim will usually prevail.
For more information contact a Tyler Premises Liability Lawyer today.