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Premises Liability

If you’ve ever talked to the fire department about safety precautions in your own home, they’ve probably told you to make sure that you have multiple working smoke detectors and to have an evacuation plan. Sit down with your family and talk about where you’ll go and what you’ll do if the alarm goes off. This way, in a chaotic situation, people can act on instinct and fall back on the evacuations they’ve practiced.

But what about if you’re in a public building or a commercial building, like a hotel? What sort of environment can you expect and what should the owners do to prevent injuries if there is a fire?

Loosely speaking, they need to “exercise reasonable care” to make sure no one is hurt. They cannot be negligent and show clear oversights.

This goes beyond just having working smoke alarms in every room. In many cases, they should probably have escape routes that are clearly marked and posted in the halls or the rooms themselves. They may also be expected to have sprinkler systems to help combat the fire during the evacuation. These may not save the building, but they can buy time for people to get out while the fire department is on the way.

Hotel owners have to account for the fact that they have a large number of people in a relatively small space and that those people are not familiar with the building. When they fail to do so, either by ignoring obvious issues — like missing fire escape signs over doors — or through simple negligence, those who are harmed may have a right to seek financial compensation.

Source: FindLaw, “Premises Liability FAQ,” accessed Nov. 8, 2017

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