WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF HOMEOWNER LIABILITY TO AN INJURED GUEST?
Today’s topic is homeowner liability. Say an injured woman sees an accident lawyer. She was a guest at a neighbor’s home. Then she tripped on a bulge in the carpet, breaking her ankle. Must the neighbor pay her compensation?
Like many other situations in the law, the lawyer might tell her, “It depends.”
The law says that the woman had to accept the home as she found it. The host had no obligation to make his home safer for her than for himself. The host was also not required to inspect his premises to discover defects.
But, if the host had reason to know of the carpet problem, and the woman could not reasonably have discovered it before she was injured, she may have a case.
The owner owed his guest a duty to exercise reasonable care to make any known problem safe. Or to at least give warning to his guest of the risk.
In sum, although a guest is required to accept the premises as the host maintains them, she is entitled to the benefit of the host’s knowledge of any dangerous conditions.
On the other hand, where a guest has reason to know of the danger and nevertheless remains on the premises, there is no homeowner liability. Likewise, if it would be very difficult or expensive to correct a defect, and the risk presented is only slight, the host wins.
So, in our case, the accident lawyer would have to find out the proverbial “who knew what when.” As well as how expensive it would have been to repair the carpet. Homeowner liability, like many other things in the law, depends on the facts.
You can read the actual New Jersey jury charge here that judges use in these situations, at page 16 here.
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