Premises Liability Issues on a College Campus
Bill Allen | January 9, 2024 | Premises Liability
A premises liability claim is a type of personal injury claim. For example, you might assert a premises liability claim if you suffered a slip and fall injury due to a dangerous condition on someone’s property.
Owners and occupiers of real property have a legal duty to exercise care to make sure their premises are safe. This obligation includes the owners and operators of college campuses.
Background: The Elements of a Premises Liability Claim
Premises liability claims are negligence claims. Negligence claims require proof of four facts: duty of care, breach of duty, damages, and causation. A more detailed treatment of each of these elements appears below.
Duty of Care
In a premises liability claim, you prove duty of care by establishing that the defendant owned or operated the property. If the defendant was a lessee of the property–a shop at a strip mall, for example–it could be the property operator, not the owner, who has a duty of care.
In most premises liability claims, the owner or operator must repair or warn of any known dangers. With respect to business customers, the owner must also inspect for latent (non-obvious) dangers.
A property owner has little duty to adult trespassers except to avoid “booby-trapping” the property. There is a higher duty of care, however, that is sometimes owed to child trespassers.
Breach of Duty
In a premises liability context, breach of duty refers to the failure of the property owner or operator to exert the appropriate degree of effort to maintain safe premises. If the property owner breaches their duty of care, they are negligent. Negligence alone, however, does not result in liability. For liability to apply, you must also prove damages and causation.
“Damages” means losses. In a personal injury context, it typically must start with a physical injury, after which point the accident victim might also demand compensation for psychological harms such as emotional distress.
The negligence, no matter how serious it was, must have actually caused the harm that the victim is complaining of. Causation comes in two flavors: factual cause and proximate cause. You must prove both of them to win.
Factual cause is present when it is true that if the defendant had not been negligent, the victim would not have been injured. Proximate cause is present when a reasonable person could have foreseen that the injury would arise from the negligence.
Vicarious Liability: Respondeat Superior
Vicarious liability arises when the law holds one party liable for the misconduct of another. In a college or university, you might be able to hold the institution itself liable for the misconduct of its employee. This is not always possible, but it usually applies if the employee was on duty at the time of the accident.
Employee Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Claims
If the injury victim is an employee of the college, they usually cannot sue the school. Instead, they must seek compensation from the school’s workers’ compensation insurance.
Common Premises Liability Claims Involving College Campuses
Following is an incomplete list of the kinds of premises liability claims that commonly arise on college campuses:
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Criminal assaults arising from inadequate security;
- Injuries arising from inadequate building and property maintenance;
- Sports and recreational activity injuries;
- Hazardous materials (from laboratories and such);
- Fire safety and emergency preparedness issues;
- Food poisoning;
- Unsafe dormitory conditions; and
- Accidents that occur at university-sponsored off-campus events.
This list only scratches the surface of possible campus-related premises liability claims.
Contact an Ocala Premises Liability Lawyer Before You File a Claim Against a College or University
Suing a college or university can be difficult for more than one reason. First, many universities possess plenty of resources to hire high-priced lawyers to defend against your claim. Second, if the college or university is public, a lawsuit against them would be a lawsuit against the government.
Special restrictions, including tight deadlines, apply to suing government entities. A lawyer could be a practical necessity under these circumstances.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of Premises Liability Issues, consult a skilled Ocala personal injury attorney for a free consultation.
We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida: