It's that time of the year again: holiday decorations are likely appearing on your front yard (from about now, through Christmas). But if you're channeling your inner Martha Stewart and are currently decking out your property, be careful. If your decorations cause injury, you can be held liable under a theory of premises liability.
This doesn't mean you can't put out any decorations.
It just means that as a homeowner, you need to be careful. Assess what items will be safe to put out and don't put out items that may cause unnecessary harm. Here are two things to keep in mind:
Who's covered under premises liability:
Under the theory of premises liability, people are usually divided up into several different categories. There are licensees or invitees, who are legally on the property. Then there are trespassers, who aren't legally on the property. Where do trick-or-treaters and their parents fall? What about the postman who's simply going to your door to deliver your mail? Or the guests you've invited over for a Thanksgiving meal? These types of people probably fall under the category of those legally on the property.
Premises need to be kept reasonably safe:
As a homeowner, you are obliged to ensure that your property is reasonably safe for all those who enter the property legally. This means you should be sure that flame-lit decorations don't catch on fire. And that walkways and paths aren't littered with items that can trip youngsters and other guests.
This might mean that you should try to not go overboard when it comes to decorating. It also might mean you might want to go ahead and fix up areas on your property that you know are potentially dangerous.
After all, if your decorations cause injury it's possible you can be faced with a lawsuit. Premises liability can be a scary thing for homeowners. It might be prudent to protect yourself against any potential legal claims.
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