Does a Business Have a Non-Delegable Duty to Make Sure Their Premises Are Safe For Pedestrians?

Under Virginia law, businesses have a duty of care towards pedestrians who visit their property. This duty is non-delegable, which means it cannot be delegated or outsourced to a third party.

The Concept of Non-Delegable Duty in Premises Liability Cases

The basis of any premises liability case is that a business owner is responsible for providing a reasonably safe environment for the visitors, failing which they can be held liable for the injuries suffered by the visitors.

The important thing to be noted here is that even if the business owner hires a third party to maintain their property, they can still be held liable for issues related to repair, maintenance, and security, since their duty of care towards their visitors is non-delegable.

For example, let us assume that an escalator in a grocery store has a broken step. If a customer accidentally steps on it and breaks their leg, the grocery store owner cannot avoid liability by pointing fingers at the repair and maintenance company.

In the aforementioned scenario, the victim can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the grocery store owner as well as the escalator repair and maintenance company.

Why the Legal Concept of Non-Delegable Duty Is Needed

In the absence of the concept of non-delegable duty, businesses can easily contract themselves out of liability by hiring independent contractors for maintaining their property. As a result, victims of negligence might not be able to recover sufficient amount of damages for the injuries they suffered.

When you walk into a business establishment, you assume that you will not be harmed in any way. This implicit assumption stems from the belief that the owner of the establishment has a duty of care towards their visitors, since the profitability of the establishment is dependent on the owner’s ability to create a safe environment for the visitors.

When this duty is breached, the business owner can and must be held accountable by the visitor. This is precisely why the concept of non-delegable duty is needed.

Liability of Business Owners in Premises Liability Cases

In order to establish the liability of a business owner in a premises liability case, you need to prove the following things.

  • The owner knew – or should have known about – the safety hazard on their premises.
  • They failed to take any action to fix it. They also failed to warn you about it.
  • The safety hazard caused an accident, in which you suffered injuries.

Upon proving the aforementioned assertions, you can recover damages from the business owner for the injuries as well as the economic losses you suffered as a result of the accident.

Types of Premises Liability Accidents

If you injure yourself on the premises of a business establishment in Virginia – and if you believe that the accident was caused as a result of the owner’s negligence – you can bring a premises liability lawsuit against them.

The most common types of accidents that lead to a premises liability lawsuit in Virginia are:

  • Slip, trip, and fall accidents
  • Escalator and elevator accidents
  • Stair accidents
  • Fire accidents
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Accidents caused by defective or poorly maintained equipment
  • Accidents caused by inadequate lighting
  • Accidents caused by building code violations
  • Accidents caused by negligent security

Exceptions to Premises Liability Claims

Despite the fact that businesses in Virginia have a non-delegable duty to create a safe environment for the visitors, there are a few circumstances under which they might be able to successfully defend themselves against premises liability claims from injured visitors.

  • If you trespass into a business establishment and injure yourself, you might not be able to hold the owner of the establishment responsible, since they have no obligation to create a safe environment for trespassers.
  • If you enter an area which is restricted for visitors and injure yourself, you might not be able to hold the owner responsible, since you entered the area despite knowing that you were prohibited from doing so.

Experienced Premises Liability Attorney in Virginia

The attorneys at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have successfully handled several premises liability cases in Virginia and recovered millions for our clients. We are well versed with the laws related to premises liability and know what it takes to convince the judge of a business establishment’s liability.

If you or any of your family members have been injured in an accident at a business establishment in Virginia, our premises liability attorneys can help you. We can conduct a detailed investigation and find out the cause of the accident, determine who can be held liable for your injuries, and recover damages from the liable parties by filing a civil lawsuit against them.

Call us today at 800-752-0042 for a free and confidential consultation with one of our premises liability attorneys.

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Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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