In Tennessee, a landowner owes a duty of general and reasonable care to anyone that enters their land, rather it’s a store owner and someone that owns a piece of land. There’s a misconception out in the public that if you’re hurt on someone’s property that the property owner is automatically responsible for that injury and that’s not true. It’s sort of a duty of reasonable care, similar to driving. We have a duty of reasonable care to not run into the back of the person in front of us. That’s a duty of care.
Premise owners have a duty of reasonable care. There’s sort of a test that goes into it and it’s a balancing. If it’s something that they can correct or remedy very easily. That’s one side of it. How serious the harm might be if it’s not corrected, that’s another part of it.
A slip and fall is a very specific type of case. I think the insurance companies have sort of made the public think that all of these are called slip and fall cases because there’s a connotation that people are at fault for their own injuries. So you think of the example of someone going into the grocery store and there’s water on the floor and the customer ends up banging their head and coming out with serious injuries.
There’s a lot that goes into that. How long was the water on the floor, did the company know about it and more. But that’s a very specific type of case, where as, a premises case can be a dangerous hole in the ground, something to do with a roof on the house. It can be a number of different cases besides a slip and fall.
The law in Tennessee is comparative faults. It’s called modified comparative fault. If I, Brent Burks, go into a store and I fall and the jury determines I was 50% at fault and the property owner is 50% at fault, I lose the case. If the store is 80% at fault because they primarily created a dangerous situation, but maybe I had a little bit of fault because I was in a hurry, not being real careful, then I would recover 80% of my damages. That’s how that works. They would basically look at the factors. Number 1, did the store owner create the situation. If they did not create it, was it there long enough that they knew about it, or should have knew about it, and remedied it. Those are common sense situations. If you as a land owner have a dangerous situation out there, you simply can’t leave it.
In almost all of the cases we have successfully handled for our clients, sometimes for substantial money, they’ve been denied on the front end. Insurance companies will start out with a proposition saying that you’re always at fault, you being the patron. Our law firm has had 7 figure settlements in these types of situations. We will hire engineers or building code experts to help us determine who was at fault for the injury. Make sure to always call a qualified law firm like McMahan Law Firm before you try to handle this case on your own.
Obviously if you’re hurt you deal with the situation and make sure it’s documented. The body of law is fair to both sides. It’s not that premises owners are being held liable by people just walking in, they will be held liable if there is a situation present that could do harm to others.