In general, a property owner who opens his property to the public for purposes of gain impliedly warrants the premises to be reasonably safe for the purpose intended and is under a legal duty to exercise due care to maintain the premises in a safe condition.   The duty to maintain the premises in a safe condition includes a duty to make reasonable inspections for defects and repair such defects in a timely manner.

Generally, property owners are held to a single standard or duty of reasonable care based on the foreseeability of someone on their property being placed in danger.   The status of the injured party as a trespasser, licensee or invitee is no longer the determining factor; but, is one factor in determining the foreseeability of that person’s presence on the property and the level of care reasonably required under the circumstances.

In order for a property owner to be liable for a defective condition on the premises, he must have actual notice of the condition and time to correct it or he must be deemed to have constructive notice which occurs when the condition has existed for a sufficient period of time such that the property owner reasonably should have known of and corrected the condition.

A property owner may also have a special duty to keep the adjoining sidewalk in a safe condition when the adjoining sidewalk is used for a special purpose for the benefit of the property owner or he has created a dangerous condition on the adjoining sidewalk.   Examples of this would be when a business uses the adjoining sidewalk to display its goods or as an outdoor eating area such as a sidewalk cafe.

See Part 2 for additional liability issues and certain limits on liability.