Paula Abdul recently learned a $900,000 lesson in homeowner liability when she agreed to settle a claim that a woman injured herself after slipping and falling on the pop star’s driveway. In 2009, during the taping of Abdul’s reality series Hey Paula, Jill Kohl, who was part of the production team, allegedly fell and injured herself, claiming in her complaint that Abdul’s driveway “was in a dangerous and defective condition.”
“Invitees are people you invite to your home for some business purpose, and it’s the category that Ms. Kohl seems to have fallen into—no pun intended,” says Christopher Balch, an attorney at Balch Law Group. “The general rule is that a premises owner or occupier must act reasonably to keep the property safe for people to walk around.”
Abdul’s hefty settlement serves as a reminder for homeowners that in many circumstances they are responsible for the well-being of their guests. However, just to what extent they are responsible varies depending on the type of guest as well as the case law and regulations specific to the homeowner’s particular state. Further, should an accident occur on your property, there are some tactics you can use to protect yourself from a costly and time-consuming lawsuit.
“The law varies a little from state to state,” says Jamie Sheller, managing partner at Sheller P.C. “Generally speaking, there are different levels of duty depending on the person entering onto your premise, whether they are a trespasser or some type of a guest.”
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