As a property owner in Arizona, you have certain responsibilities when it comes to the health and safety of those who visit your property. You could be held liable for an injury suffered by a visitor. For the most part, however, a trespasser – someone who does not have your permission or the right to enter your premises – cannot file a claim after suffering an injury on your property.
Three Classifications of Visitors
All property owners in Arizona have an obligation to maintain reasonably safe premises. This means a premises that is free from obvious or hidden injury risks, such as slip and fall accident risks, the risk of dog attacks, dangerous staircases and the risk of violent attacks by criminals. A property owner can fulfill this legal obligation by preparing his or her property to receive visitors.
The specific duties of care owed by a property owner depend on the classification of the visitor:
- Invitee – someone who has been expressly or implicitly invited to a property, such as customers visiting a business. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care, including a duty to inspect a premises for new or hidden hazards, repair any discovered defects, and warn invitees of injury risks.
- Licensee – someone who is not expressly invited to a premises but has the right to be there, such as a social guest or contractor. Licensees are owed a duty to repair discovered defects and warn of potential hazards. However, a property owner is not responsible for inspecting a premises for new or hidden hazards for a licensee.
- Trespasser – someone who does not have permission or legal authority to be on a property. In general, a property owner does not owe any duties of care to a trespasser and cannot be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries. However, there are some exceptions.
Determining whether you can be held responsible for someone’s injuries on your property starts with identifying the classification of the visitor. If you did not grant permission for someone to enter your property, you most likely will not be liable for his or her injuries. If the person is a licensee or invitee, however, you may have breached a duty of care by failing to prevent the injury and could therefore be held responsible.
Exceptions to the General Rule
For the most part, property owners are not responsible for the injuries of trespassers. There are some exceptions to the general rule under Arizona law, however:
- Child trespassers (under the age of 18). Child trespassers are owed the same duties of care as invitees. If you have an attractive nuisance on your property – something dangerous that is especially attractive to children, such as a swimming pool – you are responsible for keeping child trespassers safe.
- Willful and wanton behavior. You may be liable for any willful and wanton conduct toward a trespasser that results in injuries. Even if someone is illegally trespassing on your property, you cannot recklessly or intentionally cause the trespasser harm. You cannot shoot a trespasser who is walking in your backyard just to protect your property, for example.
- Dangerous dogs. If a dog has been deemed dangerous – typically, if it has bitten someone or killed a domestic animal – the owner of the pet has special responsibilities. This includes protecting trespassers by posting warning signs. If you fail to warn others about your dangerous dog, you may be held liable for a trespasser’s dog bite injuries.
If you aren’t sure whether you can be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries on your property, contact an attorney at Stone Rose Law for a free consultation. Our Scottsdale personal injury lawyer can explain Arizona’s premises liability laws and how they apply to your specific situation.