By Steven Wiley | November 20, 2013 at 01:38 PM EST | No Comments
After writing my last post about West Virginia's recent abolition of the "open and obvious" doctrine, I thought that I would post a very quick discussion of premises liability law in Virginia.
Basically, Virginia's courts generally apply traditional common-law distinctions between various classes of persons entering onto premises for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is any liability. The level of duty owed to a person entering onto a premises varies depending on whether the person is a trespasser, licensee (which generally includes purely social guests) or invitee (which generally includes people invited onto the premises for business or other purposes, like customers in a grocery store). Premises occupiers or owners generally owe the least duty to trespassers and the highest duty to invitees. Depending on circumstances, a person's status can change in the course of a single visit, such as trespasser becoming a licensee if the property owner assents to his or her presence. Virginia additionally still applies the open and obvious doctrine as a bar against a plaintiff's recovery if the hazard is open and obvious.
The determination of whether an injured person is a trespasser, licensee or invitee and whether a duty was present and breached can be tricky to navigate and will be dependent on the specific facts and circumstances present in each case. The body of law is much more complex than alluded to in this very brief post. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer as to the strengths and weaknesses of any potential slip-and-fall, trip-and-fall or other premises liability claim.