By Your Side
Through It All
Reach Out Today
Man hurts his leg after falling on staircase

Premises Liability and Foreseeable Harm

Denning Law Firm, LLC May 23, 2024

When you step onto another person’s or business’s property, the last thing you expect is to get injured. Most of us take it for granted that the property we are entering is safe, well-maintained, and free of potential hazards that could harm us.

Unfortunately, this trust may be violated by the property owner who fails to protect visitors against foreseeable harm.  

But what is “foreseeable” and how do you prove that the property owner should have anticipated the dangers that led to your injuries? Foreseeability is one of the most misunderstood and heavily litigated issues in premises liability law.  

If you have been injured on someone else’s property, our attorneys at Denning Law Firm, LLC, are well-equipped and stand ready to answer your questions regarding foreseeability and other aspects of your claim. Our father-daughter attorney duo has successfully tried to verdict multiple cases in state and federal courts across Kansas and Missouri and have achieved numerous multi-million-dollar recoveries for clients.  

Understanding Premises Liability and Duty of Care

The legal term “premises liability” refers to the legal responsibility of a property owner (individual or entity) to maintain their property in a safe condition for anyone on their premises. The laws that govern being injured on someone else’s property establish a duty of care that property owners owe to their guests and visitors.  

Premises liability statutes in Kansas and Missouri recognize three categories of visitors on someone else’s property:  

  • Invitees are anyone the owner invites onto the property and stay there for the benefit of the owner;  

  • Licensees are anyone who enter a property for social (non-business) reasons or with the property owner’s permission; and 

  • Trespassers are those who enter the property without the property owner’s consent or who overstay their welcome.  

A different duty of care is owed to each visitor depending on their status, with the lowest duty of care owed to trespassers. However, regardless of status, the foreseeability of harm is something that can absolve the owner of liability.  

How Foreseeability Applies to Premises Liability

Foreseeability, in legal terms, refers to the property owner’s anticipation that certain acts may reasonably lead to certain consequences. In premises liability law, it helps determine whether or not the property owner can be held liable for the visitor’s injury.  

If a danger on the property is not foreseeable, the owner cannot be expected to have prevented it. As a result, the injured visitor generally cannot file a claim for compensation because no duty of care existed in the first place.  

What Is Considered Foreseeable Harm? 

The foreseeability of a particular risk on the property depends on many factors that should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Generally, the following incidents on someone’s property may be considered foreseeable:  

  • A visitor falls through a manhole that was not properly closed. 

  • A visitor is electrocuted because electrical wiring was left exposed. 

  • A visitor stumbled and fell due to a long-standing issue with a broken staircase.

  • A visitor slips and falls because someone spilled a liquid on the floor and the owner did not clean it up within a reasonable amount of time. 

  • A visitor is assaulted by another visitor who was involved in similar incidents on that property. 

According to premises liability law in Kansas and Missouri, it is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain a safe environment for visitors and protect them from foreseeable harm.  

However, premises liability cases are rarely clear-cut, and it is not always easy to determine whether or not the way a visitor is harmed was foreseeable. That’s why you may need a consultation with a premises liability attorney who can assess the merits of your claim and help you take the steps toward recovering compensation.  

Examples When Harm Is Not Foreseeable

There are instances when harm on someone else’s property may not be foreseeable, complicating the matter for injured parties seeking compensation. Here are several examples to illustrate when a property owner may not reasonably anticipate potential risks that could cause harm to their visitors:  

1. Natural Disasters

Events such as earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes often fall outside the scope of foreseeability, unless the property is located in an area where such events are common and precautions are commonly expected. If an injury occurs due to a natural disaster that couldn't have been reasonably anticipated or prepared for, the property owner may not be held liable. 

2. Criminal Acts by Third Parties

Property owners are generally not responsible for unforeseeable criminal acts committed by third parties. For instance, if a visitor is assaulted on a property due to an unforeseeable security breach, the property owner might not be liable. However, this doesn’t apply if the criminal act could have been anticipated, such as in areas known for high crime rates without adequate security measures in place. 

3. Behavior of Other Visitors

Sometimes, the unpredictable or reckless behavior of other visitors can lead to injuries that were not foreseeable to the property owner or occupier. For example, if a visitor to a shopping mall suddenly acts erratically, causing harm to another shopper, the property owner may not be held liable for these unforeseeable actions unless they could have anticipated and prevented the incident in any way.  

Need Help with Building a Strong Premises Liability Claim?  

When it comes to pursuing a premises liability claim based on arguments that the injury was foreseeable, legal representation is key.

A skilled attorney can help you build a strong claim backed by compelling evidence that might include witness statements, surveillance video footage, property maintenance records, and others. Anything that helps establish the property owner’s knowledge of the dangerous condition and their failure to do anything about it could prove foreseeability.  

Our premises liability attorneys at Denning Law Firm, LLC, are committed to fighting on your case tirelessly so that you have the best chance of obtaining full compensation. Reach out to our office to discuss the issue of foreseeability in your specific case and explore your legal options. We offer no-cost case evaluations.