Clark, Love & Hutson, GP

Can Texas commercial property owners be held liable for spills?

A spill may be a nuisance if it is in your own kitchen, but a spill on a grocery store floor, ripped carpeting at a restaurant, or a broken step at a hotel could spell disaster if a patron at one of these places falls and injures him or herself. Commercial property owners can sometimes be held liable for the damages a patron suffers on their premises, but Texas residents should note that certain elements must be met to hold a commercial property owner liable in a premises liability lawsuit.

When it comes to commercial property, the owner of the property or the business must meet one of the following elements in order to be held liable for a slip-and-fall accident. Either the owner or employee must have caused the floor to become slippery or dangerous, the owner or employee must have known of the dangerous surface but failed to warn others of it or remedy it, or the owner or employee should have known that the surface posed a danger to patrons because a "reasonable" person in their circumstances would have found out about the danger and remedied it.

Element three is usually the most commonly argued issue made in slip-and-fall cases. This particular element is vaguer than the other two, since what someone "should have known" is generally decided by weighing whether the owner or employee's actions (or inactions) were reasonable, based on common sense. This is somewhat subjective, which makes the issue ripe for argument.

When you go to a store, restaurant or hotel, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that the facilities are safe. Unfortunately, dangerous conditions can always manifest themselves. If commercial property owners and employees aren't vigilant in ensuring their patrons are safe on their premises, or if they willfully ignore or fail to remedy a dangerous situation, injured patrons may want to determine if they can pursue plaintiff litigation to hold the responsible parties accountable for any harm suffered.

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