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When Does Premises Liability Not Apply?

Premises liability, the so-called “slip-and-fall” laws, are all about the responsibility of the owners and property managers have to the people who enter their premises. This responsibility is strongest toward guests, or invitees, and weakest towards trespassers who go where they aren’t supposed to. In between are employees and others who are expected to know more about the property and help keep it in good shape.

Premises liability has a few requirements if a plaintiff wants to sue a person or business, and that means there are plenty of situations where the property owner isn’t at fault for what happened. Here are a few examples to help you understand where the law begins and ends.

Assault By A Fellow Invitee

If one guest attacks another, the premises manager usually isn’t responsible. They may be partly at fault if (for instance) the location is a bar and they’ve allowed a patron to have a few too many drinks, and if the invitee was acting aggressively they may have wanted to ask them to leave, but in general an adult guest is responsible for his or her own actions. If a fight would have broken out at any location, a premises manager isn’t responsible because it broke out on their property.

Deliberately Ignoring Warnings

A location doesn’t have to be completely baby-proof at all times. Many locations have hazards like moving cranes, hot stoves, open pits, and motorized traffic. If you manage a premises with dangers like these, you have an obligation to post written or symbol warnings or to provide a clear spoken warning to anyone who goes near the clearly marked hazard. If someone ignores all these clear warnings and hurts him or herself, then the premises manager is not responsible for the injury.

Dangers The Owner Couldn’t Have Known About

One of the requirements for premises liability is that the premises manager should reasonably have known about the danger. There are some cases where that isn’t reasonable, like if a restaurant bought some spinach covered in salmonella and served it to guests. Some guests might get sick from food poisoning, and they wouldn’t get sick if they ate somewhere else, but if the spinach isn’t recalled then the restaurant chefs would not be at fault. However, if they find out and continue using the spinach instead of throwing it out, then they would be at fault.


Trespassers are people who deliberately leave an area where they’re allowed to be, which could be outside or the visitor area of a factory, and who cross an obvious line to go somewhere they’re not supposed to be. This could be something simple but clear like a velvet rope or something more significant like a locked door. Trespassers are breaking the law to be where they are, and chances are they’re planning on breaking a few more before they go. If something bad happens to a trespasser, it has to be very significant for the premises manager to have any responsibility for the trespasser’s safety.

Premises liability laws tend to be fairly strict about whether the premises manager is responsible or whether some other explanation could work instead. After all, bad things can happen anywhere, and premises owners should only have to pay compensation when it’s their fault something happened. But if something did happen and you think the store or home you were in played a role, contact a personal injury lawyer in your area and find out what you can do to get fair compensation.