Premises liability is the legal theory that allows people to hold property owners liable for their damages after they are injured on another person’s property. A common application of the theory comes in cases where a shopper has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident at a grocery store or other place of business.

Essentially, Louisiana’s premises liability law provides that property owners have a duty of reasonable care toward their visitors. In order to their visitors from being injured in foreseeable accidents, the owners must take reasonable steps to address safety hazards.

For instance, if a grocery store owner sees a spill of orange juice on the floor of one of the shopping aisles, they know that it presents a safety hazard. It is foreseeable that a customer might slip on the spill, fall to the floor and be injured. The duty to prevent this foreseeable accident and injury requires the owner to take reasonable steps to address the hazard. For instance, the owner should mop up the spill and warn customers of the hazard as soon as possible. If they fail to do so, they have breached their duty of care, and they can be held liable should someone slip on the spill, be injured and suffer damages as a result.

However, premises liability doesn’t necessarily hold property owners responsible for every bad thing that happens on their property. They are responsible only for taking reasonable steps to avoid the risk of foreseeable accidents. A slip and fall on a slick floor is foreseeable. A sinkhole opening up suddenly underneath a grocery store is probably not. It’s reasonable to expect a grocery store to mop up a spill as soon as possible. It’s not reasonable to expect store owners to purchase a $50 million system that uses experimental robots to detect and clean up spills within microseconds of when the liquid hits the floor.

Likewise, property owners can’t be expected to protect visitors who are dangerously reckless. If a grocery store customer spills juice on the floor, instantly decides to glide across it like a figure skater, falls and is injured, the store owner will probably not be found completely liable for the customer’s damages. Rather, a court will likely find that the customer assumed the risk of their own activity by engaging in behavior that any reasonable person would know carries the risk of injury.

Still, the injuries that come from a slip-and-fall accident can be severe, and can carry expensive medical treatment, and cause lost income and other damages. Those who have been injured while on another’s property should speak to a personal attorney about their legal options for recovering compensation.