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Can bad instructions resultin a premises liability claim?

In New York, landlords and property owners may be liable for injuries suffered by guests if the owner did not keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition. In other words, knowing about an unsafe condition and not properly repairing it can result in liability to the property owner.

However, property owners or occupants also face the risk of liability for certain things that they say to other people on the property. In other words, an owner or occupant may be liable for giving directions to a guest, which played a role in the guest’s injuries. The owner or occuoant may be liable even if the guest was also negligent.

Since at least 1958, New York law has held that an occupant of a premises who incorrectly directs a person who is unfamiliar with its surroundings may be liable for negligence. There is liability if the guest’s misunderstanding of the instructions would cause the person to enter a dangerous place because of the physical layout of the premises.

For example, a person faced liability for directing a person to a powder room when he did not warn about the danger of opening a basement door. The person was unfamiliar with the surroundings of the place and was not aware of the danger of opening the cellar door. The occupant merely pointed to several doors and did not warn of the danger of the basement stairs.

This liability doctrine requires a close review of the facts of each case. However, it also has been criticized as being outmoded.

As this illustrates, premises liability cases may be complex and require an examination of several legal and factual matters. Victims of an accident on another person’s property should seek legal advice to help determine whether there are grounds for legal action for serious injuries and other losses. This assistance will also protect rights in settlement negotiations and any type of legal proceedings.

Source: New York State Law Reporting Bureau, Rugieri v. Bannister, 22 AD3d 299, 802 NYS2d 140 (2005), accessed March 13, 2015