The Twelve Days of Tort Law: Premise Liability

On the first day of Christmas, my in-laws served on me! A complaint alleging premise liability!

Welcome to the first installment of The Law Office of Christopher J. Mutchler’s festive twelve part satirical series on Connecticut personal injury law: premise liability. Let’s get to the question you’re all asking:

What is premise liability, and how can it ruin my holiday?

In Connecticut, people are obligated to make sure their guests aren’t injured on their property. Depending on who’s on your property and why, that duty is different. But because you probably won’t be having your plumber over on Christmas Day to fix the pipe that’s been leaking all month, we’ll focus here on social guests.

Social guests are people you invite over for fun. Your cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, friends and coworkers who are there for dinner of Christmas eve are all social guests. The law calls these people “licensees.” In Connecticut, you owe these people several duties, including the following*:

(1) a duty not to intentionally harm them or set a trap for them;

(2) a duty to exercise due care with regard to him/her;

(3) a duty to warn of hidden dangerous conditions known to you; and

(4) a duty to warn of any dangerous activities that you are engaged in.

In English, you say? Let me give it a shot.

Connecticut law requires first that you not do anything on purpose to harm your guests, and prohibits you from setting traps for them. Now, this doesn’t mean you can sue your Great Aunt Judy for roping you and you’re fiancĂ© into an uncomfortable conversation about living in sin. Injury law is concerned with physical injuries. However, if your Great Aunt Judy invited you upstairs under the guise of meeting her favorite cat, Mittens, but instead lured you to fall through a fake step, you might have a cause of action for premise liability.

Connecticut law also requires you to exercise “due care” with regard to your guests. While what precisely due care is in any given situation is a topic of great scholastic debate, suffice it to say you’re probably on the hook for damages if you for some reason decide mop your floor after the seventh round of drinks and send Uncle Jim to “hurry and get the eighth” without warning him.

You must also warn of any dangerous conditions you know about, like the shaky railing going down into the basement, and must let your guests know if you are doing something dangerous when they arrive (like playing with fireworks).

So that about sums it up! Obviously, this list is, of course, non-exhaustive, and is by no means a suitable substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel with respect to any particular issue concerning your own liability or the liability of others.

I hope you enjoyed installment one of The Law Office of Christopher J. Mutchler’s festive twelve part series on Connecticut personal injury law! You can find the rest of the series by following the link below:

Life’s not always fair, but it may be fairer than you think it is. If you’re in a bind, the Law Office of Christopher J. Mutchler may be able to help!

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