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Standard of Care Owed

Summary: “A man’s home is his castle” goes the saying. However, today’s castles are not surrounded by stone walls and moats. Does the unguarded condition of a homeowners premises leave the homeowner open to unforeseen consequences? Are there any legal safeguards? What is the homeowner’s duty regarding the premises? Must the premises be scrupulously free from any hazard? Does the homeowner have an obligation to warn any and everyone about potential dangers? Does the homeowner have a different duty of care owed to a friend or neighbor, who is often free to come upon the property uninvited, as opposed to the mail carrier, or other person coming on the premises for some business purpose? Is there a duty owed to trespassers? And, what if the trespasser is a child?

Following is a discussion of the legal theories of licensees, invitees, trespassers, and the duties owed to each.

Topics covered : Introduction Definitions Invitees and licenseesTrespassers Children at play

Introduction

Standard homeowners policies provide liability coverage for bodily injury or property damage that is accidentally caused by an insured anywhere in the world. Of course, coverage is subject certain exclusions. For most insureds, the biggest exposure is the homeowners premises itself. A neighbor trips and falls on the insured’s uneven sidewalk. During a game of hide-and-seek, a blindfolded child runs into a rusty hoe left standing against a shed. Even with the best of intentions, it is often impossible to keep premises so safe that an accident could never, ever occur.

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