The 1989 comédie noire, The ’Burbs, sees Tom Hanks and Bruce Dern playing an idle vacationer and wired Vietnam veteran who are attempting to unravel the mystery of their creepy new neighbors, the Klopeks, both at the behest and in spite of the bumbling of a gauche fellow resident. Together, the lunatic trio commences snooping around the Klopeks’ house, both invited and on the sly, convinced that the reserved heart surgeon, uncongenial curmudgeon, and unsettling nephew are behind the sudden disappearance of an elderly neighbor. While on the premises, they discover a front porch that is unsound to the point of caving in, a doorbell that activates a swarm of bees, a horse of a dog dwelling inside a closet, and a furnace that burns a few thousand degrees Fahrenheit. When, at last, the body-hunting protagonist hits a gas line and the entire house is incinerated, the genuinely depraved heart surgeon fears that he has been outed for incriminating evidence that should logically have been found and attempts the murder of Tom Hanks. Ultimately, the hero triumphs; and a trunkful of skulls reveals that Mr. Klopek was guilty of at least malpractice and probably serial homicide.
Generally speaking, personal injury cases do not work this way. More often, injuries are caused by negligence, rather than actual evil. In either case, the resulting injuries can be devastating.
In spite of the knowledge all home and business owners should have of premises liability, tragic accidents lead to injury and even death every year. For your own enlightenment and protection, here are some things to watch out for:
1. Drowning Hazards
Wherever there is a body of water large enough to drown in, there is a possibility for a premises liability suit. This is, in part, because the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine states that “a landowner will be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land, if the injury is caused by any hazardous condition or object on the land, that is attractive to curious children who are unable to understand the risk involved in such condition or object.” Aside from ponds, pools, etc. that are not properly concealed, some other common examples of attractive nuisances are construction sites, ditches, farm equipment, old cars, high-voltage areas, and railroads. It is important to note that just because an area is open-access does not make it safe.
2. Slips, Trips, and Falls
As §78-27-38 in Utah code dictates, the state applies a standard of comparative negligence in determining who is at fault in a slip and fall injury. This could mean compensation from several sources or none at all, depending on the circumstances. Often, a plaintiff is only denied compensation on this principle for their own acts of negligence; but this could also be the case if it is established that the defendant exercised the reasonable care which the law demands. In Merino v. Albertson’s, for instance, the court found that a woman who slipped on a kiwifruit, and then on a jalapeño on two separate occasions was not entitled to compensation because the state of produce on the floor was temporary, and not indicative of the store’s general practice. Premise liability demands that the slip, trip, or fall be occasioned by a lack of reasonable care to forefend against reasonable risks. To renege on that responsibility is to invite an accident.
3. Burn Injuries
To prevent burn injuries from dazzling pyrotechnic displays, Utah has legislated strict laws on how fireworks can be marketed and sold and by whom. In addition to those regulations placed on the vendors of fireworks, there are also specific guidelines set out for their use in different communities within Utah. Statewide, there are only a few days and limited areas in which fireworks may be set off, including the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, and Pioneer Day; and there are only two days on which they may be discharged after 11 p.m. Having a narrow window for the lighting of fireworks limits their potential for havoc in a dry state during the warmest parts of the year. Individuals who violate the rules in place run the risk of serious property damage, environmental destruction, and severe injury to themselves and to their neighbors.
4. Dog Bite Injuries
Every dog owner is legally responsible for protecting the general public from the whims of their pooch (just as the Klopeks were presumably responsible for the bees that responded to their doorbell). Whether or not their dog has a history of violence or menacing behavior, its owners can be held liable for any injuries inflicted by the dog. Since much canine aggressiveness stems from a territorial nature, many animal attacks take place near places of residence and thus qualify the owners for premise liability. However, since undisciplined dogs sometimes expand their territory, proximity to their actual boundaries is not necessary for this qualification. In this sense, an animal is defined as a person’s property in much the same way that any other property hazard could be termed the tenant’s responsibility.
The person who falls victim to an attractive nuisance, an unruly animal, or any injury caused by an establishment’s poor upkeep has the right to seek compensation for serious injuries—even if they were not invited or summoned to the premises. All areas left accessible to the general public are to be kept clear of foreseeable hazards through reasonable care. If you or someone you care for have been injured because of another’s negligence to maintain their property, call personal injury attorneys Christensen & Hymas at (801) 506-0800 for a free consultation or request a free booklet at UtahAccidentBooks.com.
Image courtesy of two_rivers