Posted on 12/08/2021 at 12:00 PM by The Biker Lawyers
Someone fell and got hurt on your property. Are you liable?
In Iowa, the answer is... Sometimes.
The simple answer is that you may be liable if there is a dangerous condition on your property and you knew about it, never attempted to warn lawful visitors, and never attempted to fix the problem.
According to a legal review from 2016 by Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, "Bottom line, tort law requires that we take responsibility for our own actions and the hazards we create. If we don't, we can be sued and ordered by a court to pay damages to those we have harmed."
The report goes on to explain that there are several different torts or civil causes of actions that people can seek damages for, but the most common is negligence.
To clarify, "negligence" is considered unintentional and not as simple as claiming that someone should have known better. To win in a negligence case, the plaintiff must prove all four of the following:
The person filing the claim in the personal injury case must show that the other party had a duty of care (meaning that the defendant was responsible for the plaintiff's wellbeing and somehow contributed to the accident)
There was a failure to conform to the duty of care standard
That said, here is where it gets a bit tricky. In other states, laws may vary but in Iowa, a property owner is legally required to take reasonable care to maintain their property.
As a property owner, you don’t have to know about every single possible hazardous condition at all times, but you are required to “exercise reasonable care” to discover and fix any dangerous conditions.
If you’re a landlord, you’re probably already aware, but you need to be sure to know and follow the Iowa Uniform Residental Landlord and Tenant Law to further understand your legal obligations and liabilities. What it really boils down to is that an owner of property in Iowa must keep the property maintained in such a condition that it doesn't put lawful visitors at risk.
Iowa Supreme Court’s Factors for Reasonable Care
The Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2009 that outlines the factors of reasonable care. Some of these included:
The foreseeability of potential harm;
For example, if you don't want people to trip and fall, you shouldn't have a bunch of loose extension cables or holiday lights across your sidewalk where people may traverse. You also shouldn't go full Kevin McAllister inside (or outside) your home.
Why the person was on the property;
This is important because it’s less likely the property owner is responsible for the safety of trespassers in the case of accidental injury
The circumstances, time, and manner of when the person entered the property;
How the property was being used when the injury occurred;
If the property owner or occupier could have repaired or given warning of the potential danger (opportunity), and how easily it could have been done
If there is something on the property that could cause an injury, how easily could it have been repaired, and/or did the property owner give some kind of warning (posted sign, etc.) that could have helped prevent accidental injury?
There are a few more factors to consider as well, which can be found In the Koenig v. Koenig Iowa Supreme Court ruling document found here if you're curious.
What about negligence caused by employees?
Agents of the owner (employees) create a dangerous condition, it’s presumed that the owner knew that the dangerous condition existed. This is why you often see wet floor signs posted after an employee mops the floor at a restaurant.
Have questions about injuries that happened on your property?
Or, do you have you been hurt visiting someone else? If so, we should talk. Click below to start the conversation!