Day 7: What is the ‘Reasonable Person’ Standard in Premises Liability Cases?

When it comes to premises liability cases, one legal concept that often plays a critical role is the ‘reasonable person’ standard. This abstract idea can influence the outcome of your slip and fall case. So, what is the ‘reasonable person’ standard, and how does it apply to premises liability? Let’s delve into the topic.

Understanding the ‘Reasonable Person’ Standard

The ‘reasonable person’ standard is a legal concept used to help determine negligence in personal injury cases, including premises liability. It sets an objective standard for behavior, asking what an average person of ordinary prudence would have done in the same or similar situation. 

The ‘reasonable person’ isn’t an actual individual but an idealized standard of behavior that society expects in the context of protecting others from unreasonable risks of harm. With property, visitor status (below) greatly affects the analysis.

Application in Premises Liability Cases

In premises liability cases, the ‘reasonable person’ standard helps determine whether a property owner acted negligibly. The question to be answered is: “Would a reasonable person in the property owner’s position have identified the dangerous condition and either rectified it or warned others about it?” If a property owner fails to meet the actions expected of a ‘reasonable person,’ he may be found negligent and thus liable for damages resulting from an accident.

Factors Considered in Determining the ‘Reasonable Person’ Standard

Subject to visitor status (below), various factors can influence what is considered ‘reasonable’ in a given situation. Here are some commonly considered aspects:

  • Foreseeability: Would a reasonable person have been able to predict the risk? If the risk was foreseeable, the property owner had a duty to address it.
  • Location: The property’s location can influence what is deemed reasonable. For instance, a property owner in a locale known for icy winters may be expected to regularly de-ice their walkways.
  • Property use: The way the property is used can also factor into the ‘reasonable person’ standard. For instance, a grocery store owner may have a higher duty to clean up spills promptly due to the nature of their business.

‘Reasonable Person’ and Visitor Status

The ‘reasonable person’ standard can also depend on the visitor’s status — invitee, licensee, or trespasser. A higher standard of care is owed to invitees. Invitees are people invited to property for the benefit of the property owner, like customers in a store. With invitees, property owners are expected to actively attempt to discover hidden dangers and either remove the danger or provide clear notice of the danger. Licensees are those invited to non-commercial property as social guests, like guests to a dinner party. They are owed notice of any hidden dangers known to the landowner. The standard of care owed to trespassers is significantly lower in that with trespassers, the landowner cannot set hidden dangers to cause harm that the landowner would not be able to use if he were present. For example, he normally cannot set up a trap-gun to wound or kill trespassers outside of his dwelling on his property.

The Role of a Personal Injury Attorney

Understanding and applying the ‘reasonable person’; standard can be challenging due to its subjective nature. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide crucial guidance, helping to build a strong argument that the property owner, in your case, did not meet this standard.

Conclusion

The ‘reasonable person’ standard is an integral part of premises liability cases, helping to determine whether a property owner’s actions were negligent. By understanding this standard and its implications, you’ll be better equipped to navigate your slip-and-fall case. Always consider seeking legal advice to understand fully and utilize this concept in your unique circumstances.