Premises Liability in Louisiana: When is an Owner Responsible for an Accident Which Occurs on Property?

Personal injury cases often involve an accident which occurred due to a dangerous condition in property (Ex: a collapsing ceiling in a rental property) which may be hidden. In the alternative, the dangerous condition may be open and obvious to all involved. In Louisiana, there has been an abundance of litigation involving accidents which occur on property owners’ premises.

Louisiana Civil Code art. 2322 provides guidance on this issue:

“The owner of a building is answerable for the damage occasioned by its ruin, when this is caused by neglect to repair it, or when it is the result of a vice or defect in its original construction.”

The article further indicates that such an owner “is answerable for damages only upon a showing that he knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the vice or defect which caused the damage, that the damage could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care, and that he failed to exercise reasonable care.” (Emphasis added).

Under this article the plaintiff may have to prove the following to build a successful case:

  1. Ownership of the building;

  2. The owner knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should of known of the ruin or defect;

  3. The damage could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care;

4. Causation.

A finding of negligence on the owner’s behalf is going to be an extremely fact -specific process that will rely on your specific circumstances. Did the owner know of the defect or hazardous condition? Should the owner have known about the hazardous condition? These are all questions which will need to be answered in order to establish a successful personal injury case against an owner of property based on premises liability.

If the property owner has insurance and a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will have a wealth of defenses to utilize and explore in order to minimize or altogether dismiss the plaintiff’s claims. Premises liability cases can be particularly difficult from a plaintiff;s perspective. An immediate consultation with a local lawyer would be a wise decision for anyone injured by a “defect” in a property either hidden or open and obvious.