Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Statistically, airplane crashes are rare; however, people often suffer other injuries and accidents during air travel. The international treaty, known as the Montreal Convention (the Treaty), governs liability and compensation in cases where a New Hampshire victim suffers injuries or death during airline travel. The treaty provides that airlines may be liable for personal injury or wrongful death of a passenger on an international flight, between two qualifying nations. New Hampshire injury victims who wish to recover under this treaty must establish that their injury or death arose from an “accident” on board of an aircraft, in the “course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”

An “accident” is an unexpected or unusual event that is external to the victim. Courts have applied this nebulous term to injuries that result from hijackings, passenger assaults, and an airline’s failure to provide adequate medical attention to a passenger. Issues often arise when the injury-causing event occurs outside of the plane. In these cases, courts will determine whether the victim was in the “operation” of embarking or disembarking. This inquiry typically requires the court to evaluate factors such as where the passenger was when the event occurred, what the victim was doing at the time of the incident, and the location of the passenger to the plane.

Additionally, the Treaty requires that a passenger brings their suit within two years of the “date of the arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft should have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped.” Plaintiffs who do not abide by the strict statute of limitations may risk dismissal and waive their right to recovery. For example, in a recent case, a state appellate court issued an opinion addressing issues that may apply to when someone is injured while on an airplane.

New Hampshire law allows those who are injured by the use of a defective product to bring a personal injury claim against the product’s manufacturer, retailer, supplier, or even sometimes another related party. These suits, called “product liability” lawsuits, sometimes lead to a discussion of what exactly constitutes a product. For example, if a water slide at an amusement park is defective and leads to a user’s injuries, can they file product liability suit against the park? Recently, a state appellate court considered this exact issue in a decision that may shed insight into how New Hampshire courts would handle the same situation.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff in the case was visiting a theme park operated by the defendant. He went down a water slide at the park, but during the course of his ride, he accidentally slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach. When he entered the splash pool at the end of the slide, his feet hit the bottom of the pool, causing him to fracture his hip and his pelvis.

The plaintiff sued the defendant under a theory of product liability, claiming that the water slide was a defective product that caused his injuries. The plaintiff argued that he could sue the operator of the park because they were in the water slide’s “chain of distribution.” The defendant asked the court to dismiss this claim, arguing that the doctrine of product liability did not apply because they were not supplying the plaintiff with the product, but instead delivered an amusement “service” to him. As such, the court had to consider this important question: is purchasing a ticket to an amusement park and riding a water slide at an amusement park considered a product or a service? Put another way, were guests to the amusement park buying tickets to the park primarily to use the water slides, or primarily to obtain a service which may involve the use of water slides? If the former, then product liability is appropriate. If the latter, then is it not.

Many New Hampshire homes were built years ago, and although these residences come with a certain charm, they may also pose serious dangers to residents. One common health hazard that individuals may suffer related to these homes is exposure to lead and lead poisoning. Lead paint was commonly used in New Hampshire homes before Congress’ ban in 1978.

Studies suggest that almost 40 million homes in the United States built before the 60s contain lead paint. Many of the homes containing a concerning amount of lead paint include children under six years old. This is alarming because exposure to lead paint can lead to lead poisoning, which can cause severe permanent damage.

Recently, an appellate court in New Hampshire issued an opinion in a consolidated action between a landlord seeking unpaid rent and tenants who alleged that their children suffered harm as a result of lead exposure while living in the landlord’s property. The couple moved into the landlord’s apartment when their twin children were one year old. Several months later, the parents became concerned about developmental delays. At their check-up, both children received lead testing, which revealed elevated levels. The family moved out of the residence, and their landlord filed an action against them, seeking unpaid rent. The family presented expert evidence suggesting that the children’s delays were related to lead in the apartment. The landlord argued that the expert’s finding should be excluded because his methodology was unsupported by medical literature. The appellate court ultimately remanded the case, but found that experts in these cases are not required to base their opinions on one specific type of methodology, so long as their methods are reliable.

Winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are a way of life for many in New Hampshire and throughout the Northeast. And while skiing and snowboarding are great ways to get exercise and experience the outdoors, there are also certain risks involved in these activities. Some of these risks are inherent in the sport itself, however, many risks can be greatly magnified when ski resorts fail to take the necessary precautions to ensure that the lifts and ski runs are safe for guests.

Of course, ski resorts should take all steps to make the resort safe. However, each year there are hundreds of people who are seriously injured in New Hampshire ski accidents. While some of these accidents involve the negligence of a skier or snowboarder, many would have otherwise been preventable had the resort exercised reasonable caution. However, under New Hampshire premises liability law, some ski resorts may be immune from liability based on the state’s “ski immunity” statute.

In part because the ski tourism industry is such a vital part of the state’s economy, lawmakers have passed certain statutes that shield ski resorts from liability. Specifically, section 225-A:24 states that “Each person who participates in the sport of skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing accepts as a matter of law, the dangers inherent in the sport,” and cannot bring a lawsuit against a resort based on these “inherent risks, dangers or hazards.”

Injured workers have several possibilities when it comes to obtaining compensation after an on-the-job accident. Under the New Hampshire workers’ compensation laws, most workplace accidents will not result in an employer being held civilly liable for damages an employee suffers while on the job. This is because the worker’s compensation law is an injured employee’s exclusive remedy. Thus, when someone is injured on the job, they can pursue a no-fault workers’ compensation claim, but they cannot generally pursue a New Hampshire personal injury claim against their employer.

Of course, there are a number of exceptions to this general rule. The first is if an employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance. State law requires that all qualifying employers maintain a workers’ compensation insurance policy. In exchange for meeting this requirement, employers cannot be sued by an injured employee. However, when an employer fails to obtain such a policy, they are not protected by the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

Another way that an injured employee may be able to obtain compensation for their injuries is through a third-party personal injury claim. Workers’ compensation claims are between an injured employee and their employer. However, if a third-party negligently caused the employee’s injuries, that party may be liable in a personal injury lawsuit. For example, if a truck driver who is employed by a trucking company is struck by a forklift while helping unload cargo at his destination, the truck driver may have a New Hampshire premises liability claim against the store (assuming that he too is not employed by the store). Third-party claims can raise some complex issues, especially if the injured employee also obtains workers’ compensation after the accident.

New Hampshire slip and fall cases arise when a person suffers injuries after slipping and falling as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on another’s property. Slip and falls inside buildings typically occur because of unsafe conditions such as broken tiles, torn carpeting, insufficient lighting, narrow or steep stairs, or wet floors. Outdoor slip and fall accidents are often the result of dangerous conditions related to ice and snow, potholes, broken steps, or other hidden hazards. New Hampshire land and building owners have a responsibility to make sure their property is reasonably safe for those who enter their property.

Under premises liability laws, these owners may be responsible for injuries that occur on their property. New Hampshire slip and fall victims must meet their evidentiary burden if they wish to recover damages against a negligent property owner. To begin with, injury victims should identify all potentially liable parties and then determine whether the parties were negligent. Some likely responsible parties are building owners, occupiers, landlords, and property management companies.

New Hampshire slip and fall plaintiffs must typically prove one of two liability theories. They must establish that the property owner or agent in control of the property should have known about the dangerous condition. This requires the plaintiff to establish that a reasonable person would have known about the hazardous condition and had enough time to remedy the unsafe situation. The other theory requires a plaintiff to prove that the property owner or their agent created a dangerous condition. Under this theory, plaintiffs must show that it was foreseeable that an injury would result because of the defendant’s actions.

Under New Hampshire premises liability law, owners or occupiers of property can be liable for accidents and injuries that occur because of a dangerous condition on their property. Premises liability law mirrors general negligence principles, and, as such, victims must be able to establish that the individual or entity responsible for maintaining the property failed to address the hazardous condition reasonably.

Generally, New Hampshire law provides two ways for injury victims to establish liability in these cases. To recover for damages, plaintiffs must either prove that they suffered injuries because the defendant carelessly created a dangerous condition or because they failed to repair or warn the victim of the danger. The plaintiffs must be able to prove that the defendant had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.

For example, recently, a national news source reported that a landlord was sentenced to prison after an illegal gas line on her property exploded. The explosion caused several injuries, two deaths, and two buildings to crumble. Reports indicate that the building’s landlord continued to rent and sublet units of the apartment complex, despite the gas company disapproving a gas line into the apartment complex. After tenants complained of smelling gas, the utility company turned off the gas. In response, the landlord began tapping gas from a neighboring building. The illegal system of pipes was hidden from gas company inspectors. The deadly explosion occurred when the landlord instructed two men to turn the gas back on after the gas company inspectors left the building.

Winter can be a fun and beautiful season, with many New Hampshire residents enjoying ice-skating, sledding, and the winter holidays. However, with winter comes winter weather, which is some of the most dangerous weather and causes many slip and fall accidents each season. Even just walking down the street can lead to a tragic accident; individuals might slip on built-up snow or hidden ice and fall, potentially suffering broken bones, spinal cord injuries, hip injuries, and more. And going inside does not necessarily lessen the risk of an accident. Often, floors in grocery stores can become slippery as customers walk through snow and bring it in on their shoes, where it melts and poses a slipping hazard. New Hampshire residents should be aware of the risks that winter weather poses and their options for legal recourse should they be injured.

Many people who slip and fall because of ice or snow do not consider filing a claim against the responsible party because they assume that the accident was their fault, and that they should have been more careful. However, there are many times when another party, typically the property owner, is responsible for maintaining the premises and ensuring that sidewalks and walkways are free from hazardous conditions, such as built-up ice or snow. Property owners are also responsible for maintaining safe walking conditions inside their buildings, avoiding slippery floors whenever possible. This legal doctrine is called premises liability, and it generally applies to private homeowners, businesses, and even rental properties in most situations. Therefore, when someone is injured because a homeowner failed to shovel their walkway, or a business failed to keep their floors dry and free of tracked-in snow, that person can typically bring a civil negligence lawsuit against the responsible party.

These lawsuits can be complicated, with property owners arguing that they did their best to avoid the hazard, that they had no way of knowing about it, or that they warned visitors about the danger. Many plaintiffs may be dissuaded from filing a claim, fearing that it could result in a long, drawn-out case, costing time and energy that they would rather reserve for healing and getting their life back on track. But often victims are saddled with costs after an accident, and they may struggle to pay back medical bills or account for lost wages. As a result, consulting a personal injury attorney to assist with the case may take some of the stress off the victim while still earning them compensation.

Recently the state’s high court issued an opinion stemming from a New Hampshire slip and fall accident occurring in the plaintiff’s employer’s parking lot. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff slipped on ice in an employee parking lot as she exited her vehicle before beginning her shift as a nurse at the hospital. As a result of her slip and fall, she suffered severe injuries requiring surgery. Her employer, a hospital, was immune from liability, so the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the company that the hospital hired to clear snow and ice.

The plaintiff alleged that the snow company breached their duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition because they failed to clear and salt the parking lot. The plaintiff cited the contract between the snow removal company and the hospital. The contract provided that the company would clear the lots as frequently as possible, before each shift, and salt before and after a storm. The company moved for dismissal, arguing that they did not owe the woman a duty of care. The plaintiff appealed, contending, amongst other issues, that a duty exists under the doctrine of foreseeability and third-party liability.

Under New Hampshire law, plaintiffs intending to hold an at-fault party responsible for their injuries must meet the legal elements of a negligence claim. Generally, plaintiffs must establish that the at-fault party owed them a duty, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach resulted in foreseeable, proximate injuries and damages. In many cases, the foreseeability prong is easy to establish; however, challenges occur when the defendant argues that the victim’s injuries were not foreseeable or the party themselves were not a foreseeable plaintiff. New Hampshire law provides that parties owe a duty to those “foreseeably endangered by their conduct, whose likelihood and magnitude make the conduct unreasonably dangerous.” In this case, the court found that the snowplow services did not amount to unreasonably dangerous conduct, and the negligent activity did not outsize the harm sufficient to create a duty.

Recently, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire issued a ruling in an appeal stemming from a premises liability lawsuit against a property owner. The case originated after a man fell on a property while leaving a New Hampshire business. The man suffered injuries because of the fall, and he and his wife collectively filed a lawsuit against the property owner for negligence and loss of consortium. The couple alleged that the fall occurred because the stairs were inadequate, dangerous, and did not meet building codes. The complaint stated that the stairs were too steep and missing handrails.

Under New Hampshire law, property and business owners must ensure that their land is safe for guests and visitors. In most cases, if a person sustains injuries because of a dangerous condition on the property, they may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against the owner. Some common places where these types of injuries occur are stores, apartment complexes, sidewalks, parks, restaurants, and residential homes.

In these cases, the victim must be able to establish that their injuries were because of the owner’s negligence or carelessness. Typical premises liability actions stem from slip and falls, property collapses, and animal bites. Often, a plaintiff will offer evidence that the property did not comply with applicable building and safety codes to establish liability. They may also point to dangerous aspects of the location, such as defects, missing safety features, poor lighting, disrepair, and lack of warning signs.

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