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Pittsburgh Premises Liability Law Blog

Hazards and blame in Pennsylvania premises liability claims

Allegheny County parents often add locks to cupboards and cabinets when there's a young child in the home. Pittsburgh parents take reasonable precautions, sometimes long before a baby can walk, to prevent potentially dangerous conditions. Home and business owners are compelled by premises liability laws to take similar precautions for visitors.

Restaurants, hotels, stores and other business establishments are obligated to be concerned about customers' welfare. Property owners have a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises to prevent visitor injuries. A slip or trip and fall may cause harm that could have been prevented.

Pennsylvania home fire death rate among nation's highest

Pittsburgh residents have good reasons to be concerned about safety at home. The risk of dying in a fire at home is greater in Pennsylvania than in most other states, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Our state ranks among the top three with the most fire-related fatalities.

FEMA compiles national statistics about the prevalence, causes and victims of fires. Residential fires declined significantly throughout the U.S. between 2007 and 2011. Seven percent fewer homes caught fire, injuries were down 3 percent and fatalities dropped 11 percent.

Sovereign immunity obstacles in premises liability claims

Pennsylvania home and business owners are responsible for keeping property free of dangers that could harm visitors. Governments are caretakers of public properties. Property rules applicable to municipalities, cities, counties, states and the federal government are often less stringent than premises liability laws that apply to individuals and businesses -- governments get a break due to sovereign immunity laws.

Sovereign immunity laws limit civil claims against governments. Today's laws are more flexible than in the past, when no one could take governments to court for any reason. The rules have softened at local, state and federal levels to permit tort claims under certain circumstances.

Are Pittsburgh stores always liable for customer accidents?

Allegheny County store owners are motivated to maintain attractive shopping environments. Customers prefer clean, orderly stores to businesses with dirty floors and sloppily stacked merchandise. An unkempt atmosphere reflects on a business owner's reputation and becomes a factor, when a customer suffers an injury while on the property.

Wal-Mart has thousands of stores nationwide. A Pepperdine University report stated the big-box retailer served in excess of 100 million customers per week in 2004. Although store and customer counts may be significantly higher today, about 1,000 Wal-Mart visitors, at that time, were injured daily in accidents. A fraction of the incidents resulted in legal action.

Pennsylvania slip and fall blamed on market, delivery person

Accidental falls due to slips are more likely, as we move through a season that often is more rain-soaked than sunny. Floors in Pittsburgh stores can become slippery due to wet foot traffic from customers, employees and others constantly moving in and out. Store owners have a duty to clear hazards quickly or warn customers about them.

A Pennsylvania woman blames an Oxford grocery store and a pop maker for a slip and fall accident. The plaintiff in a recently-filed premises liability claim alleges a Chester County food store, Acme Markets, failed to clean up a liquid-covered aisle, caused by a soft drink delivery person. The injured woman also blamed Pepsi Beverages Inc. for the delivery person's incompetence in dealing with the slippery spot.

Owner negligence equals damages in premises liability claims

The Pennsylvania Department of Health analyzes the numbers, types and costs of injuries suffered by hospital patients statewide. Facts like these let health officials know the prevalence of certain injuries, so accident prevention efforts and laws can focus upon them.

If you take a look at the "mechanism" for Allegheny County injuries in 2012, one cause of harm rises above the others. Falls were responsible for 51 percent of all recorded injuries. The overwhelming majority of 7,857 recorded falls occurred among senior citizens 75 and older, but the second highest injury group with 1,547 falls was victims age 45 to 64 – not seniors and not children.

Injury claim against Pennsylvania mulch seller tops $500,000

You know the condition of your property better than anyone else – the part of the yard that turns mushy and slippery after a hard rain or the loose step on the back deck. Visitors don't share the same knowledge. Someone unfamiliar with your property could get hurt if you don't address problems or warn others about dangerous conditions.

Pittsburgh store owners have the same duties as homeowners to provide reasonable protection for visitors. Ideally, store operators regularly inspect areas where customers walk, inside and outside a business, and the way products are displayed and stacked. Hazards that can be fixed are corrected, while warning signs or barriers are placed around dangers that can't be avoided.

Pennsylvania airport, airline sued for fall at departure area

You don't visit a neighbor or shop at an Allegheny County store anticipating you'll be hurt. You assume others will maintain a safe property the way you do. This safety agreement is more than common courtesy -- the property owner is obligated to take reasonable steps to protect visitors from injuries.

A woman preparing to take a flight out of Philadelphia International Airport suffered serious injuries in a departure lounge. The out-of-state resident recently filed a premises liability claim stating a chair in the waiting area collapsed, when the woman sat on it. The passenger's head and back hit a wall when she fell backward.

Home explosion critically injures Pennsylvania mother, daughter

Human mistakes are often the cause of gas-related accidents. Gas explosions and fires produced by them result in large-scale property damage, fatalities and catastrophic injuries for survivors. The sources for these destructive accidents are propane tank leaks, faulty natural gas connectors or valves, improper gas equipment installation and unmaintained or outdated pipelines.

A 2012 ProPublica.org report stated half the gas pipelines in the U.S. were at least half a century old. A deadly 2011 underground gas explosion in Allentown claimed the lives of five people and damaged dozens of homes. The gas leak was traced to cast-iron gas pipes installed in the Pennsylvania neighborhood more than 80 years ago.

Is liability automatic for Allegheny County property owners?

According to the National Safety Council, about 8.9 million people in the U.S. are treated in hospitals each year for fall-related injuries. When you slip and fall or trip and fall at a location other than home, the owner or operator of that property may be responsible for your medical expenses and other losses.

Fault and subsequent compensation for Allegheny County premises injury accidents depend upon the circumstances of each case. A property owner is not automatically responsible for visitors' injuries, even if a fall victim's injuries are severe. A legal claim is valid only when the injury is tied to property owner negligence.