Premises Liability – civil liability for injuries from dangerous conditions on property
What standards or regulations apply to a premises liability case in Virginia?
Various safety standards can determine liability for a property owner.
- Duty to Remove Snow and Ice can give rise to liability
Property owners have a duty to remove snow and ice from sidewalks that are adjacent to one’s property. Typically, a property or home owner’s coverage will cover such a claim. In Virginia, different counties have different requirements for the removal of snow and ice on sidewalks. For a summary of such code requirements, click here.
- The Failure to Follow Building Code Requirements can give rise to liability
The Uniform Building Codes applicable in all states establishes safety standards that must be followed.Virginia’s building codes can be found here. The failure to follow building codes can be evidence of negligence if the code violation was the cause of the injury. The failures to have proper handrails is a classic example.Schlimmer v. Poverty Hunt Club, 268 VA. 74, 78 (2004).
Where the injured Plaintiff was a member of the class of persons intended to be protected by a statute enacted for the safety of the public, the owner could be liable under negligence per se principles – in short they are liable as a matter of law under such circumstances.MacCoy v. Colony House Builders Inc, 239 Va. 64, 69 (1990)
Statutes imposing negligence per se liability include the Virginia Construction Code and the Virginia maintenance Code.Vepco v. Savoy Contruction, 224 Va. 36, 294 S.E. 811 (1982)
Supreme Court of Virginia upheld code violation as negligence per se, noting that the dominant purpose of the building code is to protect the public health and safety.
- Life Safety Codes
In addition to state building codes, additional life safety codes exist that provide relevant standards for health and safety. For a review of such standards from the National Fire Protection Association, click here.
- Liability of Government for Negligent Inspection
State or County inspectors could face liability for approving a structure that did not conform to code. However, most jurisdictions, including Virginia, provide certain levels of immunity that make it difficult to prosecute such cases. For a review of such cases as summarized in a University of Richmond Law Review Article, click here.
- Va. Code § 8.01-221
This statute recognizes that a violation of a statute, like a building code, resulting in damages gives rise to a claim against the wrongdoer.
- Liability under a nuisance theory
Under Virginia law a property owner can be liable under a nuisance theory where his conduct interferes with the use and enjoyment of one’s property or apartment. Such a theory is available even where the owner exercised reasonable care.For an excellent brief summarizing the law of nuisance in a case against Walmart, click here.