Premise liability elements refer to the rules governing property owner responsibilities for informing others of and protecting them from the dangers of entering a property. Canadian provinces, including British Columbia, have laws dictating the liability property owners have when someone is injured or their property is damaged while on the premises. All property owners are obligated to maintain a safe environment for visitors that is free of hazards. When the property owner fails to do so due to negligent, illegal, or malicious action, they may be legally responsible.
Generally speaking, premise liability is a type of negligence claim relating to the condition of the property rather than the owner’s actions while on their property.
What Does the BC Occupiers Liability Act Say?
In layman’s terms, this act outlines three general categories of owner obligation, or “duties of care,” that require reasonable efforts to protect a person and their property while that person is within, or in the vicinity of the owner’s premises. In cases where there are inherent, obvious and legal risks to property (like a swimming pool), owners may not be responsible for those risks. However, if owners fail to warn people of risks or act in a way that unreasonably raises those risks (like failing to maintain safe conditions), they can be held legally liable.
The three areas of owner obligation are:
- The condition of the property and its maintenance.
- Normal activities conducted on the premises.
- The conduct of third parties on or related to the premises.
The role of the third-party obligation can change based on the context. For instance, depending on the activities occurring, the renter, rather than a landlord, may be responsible for an injury to a renter’s guest.
Additionally, leasees of commercial properties like units in a shopping mall may have additional responsibilities to visitors that are either implied by law or specified in the lease agreement. However, when a commercial property is made available for rent, it is done so under the assumption that the space is safe for visitors under British Columbian law.
While contracts might specify under which circumstances different parties can have different responsibilities, this may not make such clauses enforceable. In some cases, a court could void contract clauses that improperly transfer liability to a third party.
Those who trespass on a property are understood to have willingly assumed the risks of being on the property. In this case, owners still have some duties of care, but they are generally not liable as long as they have not willfully or recklessly created a danger to trespassers.
Types of Common Premise Liability Cases
- Slip and fall incidents
- Dangerous property
- Swimming pool injury
- Inadequate maintenance
- Restaurant liability
- Cases involving children
- Retail store liability
- Grocery store liability
If you have suffered significant injury while on someone else’s property, contact the lawyers at Stephens and Holman to help you determine what courses of action are available to you. Injuries received while on someone else’s property can be devastating but you may have legal options.