Avoiding Costly Litigation: Visitors, Wet Umbrellas, and Liability

Accident prevention is a focal point for many businesses, particularly those in the retail, hospitality, and other services industries. In preventing accidents, property owners proactively limit their exposure to liability, ensuring that operations are not sidetracked by costly litigation. In this article, we explore the duties that property owners owe to guests and the ways in which businesses can be proactive in preventing rainy day accidents.

Property Owner Liability: Understanding Your Duty

To understand why wet umbrellas present such a risk to businesses and property owners, it is helpful to first cover a few basics on property owner liability. A legal concept, property owner liability explores the extent to which the owner of a storefront, facility, or other piece of property is responsible, or liable, for the incidents that occur on the premises.

By law, all property owners have a responsibility to both keep their premises relatively safe while also warning guests of potential dangers. However, the degree to which commercial and even residential property owners are liable for others varies depending on whether the guest is a trespasser, licensee, or invitee.

Who Is Your Guest? Trespassers are those individuals who enter a piece of property without the permission of the owner. Licensees are deemed “informal” guests, and owners have a certain degree of responsibility to keep them safe. Invitees are individuals who are “invited” onto the premises, either expressly or under the assumption that they will do business.

In this way, customers, clients, and any other individual who is invited to do business is considered an invitee by law. As invitees, property owners owe these individuals the highest degree of care and might be deemed liable for the injuries they sustain while on the property.

Top 5 Facts About Property Owner Liability

To prevent claims of liability from crippling your business, take a moment to review these quick facts about property owner liability. Take a strong step towards effective liability prevention by reviewing these concepts with employees, especially those who manage customer relations or maintenance.

  1. If you invite a guest on to your property to conduct business, you might be liable for the injuries they sustain.
  2. Property owners have 4 specific responsibilities to commercial guests, or invitees: i) Regularly inspect the property; ii) Find dangerous conditions; iii) Warn invitees of the danger; iv) Repair all dangerous conditions, to the maximum extent possible.
  3. Negligence can arise if you fail to perform the duties listed above.
  4. Liability by Omission: Failure to act might trigger liability.
  5. Employers are liable for the negligence of their employees.

How Do Wet Umbrellas Trigger Liability Claims?

After reviewing the basic concepts of property owner liability (sometimes also referred to as premises liability), it is easy to see how wet umbrellas might lead to accidents and costly liability claims for business owners. Here are the 3 most common ways that wet umbrellas might cause accidents, as explored in last week’s article, Why Are Wet Umbrellas Dangerous?

1. Entrance Mats Provide Limited Safety

Entrance mats are designed to dry shoes, contain moisture/debris, and improve overall safety and walking conditions. They are not designed to maintain the rainwater that wet umbrellas are known to track past entryways, however, especially when guests do the shake and splash.

2. Guest Shake Umbrellas, Splash Water Across Floor

In an attempt to dry their umbrellas, guests often open and close them repeatedly while just inside the entryway. And while this might be effective in drying the umbrella, it also sends streams of rainwater, snow and ice well beyond the entrance mats. This is particularly dangerous because the liquid accumulates into puddles in areas that guests and maintenance staffs might not expect. The longer the puddles linger, the larger and more dangerous they become.

3. Slips and Falls Cost Billions

According to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, slip and fall accidents cost American businesses an estimated $13 billion in workers compensation and other costs. Though the study focused primarily on employee-related workplace injuries, it nevertheless illustrates that slip and fall accidents are common, costly, and a priority when it comes to liability prevention.

Limit Your Liability with Effective Safety Products

To learn more about our state of the art umbrella bag dispensers, visit our Automatic Wet Umbrella Wrappers online store. Readers are also invited to contact customer service at 855-328-8100.

29. July 2013 by Umbrella Bagger
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