What’s the Difference Between Premises Liability and Product Liability?


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We all deserve to feel safe when entering homes and businesses and using the products we’ve purchased. But what happens when you’re injured in a business or residence that is not your own? What do you do if a dangerous or defective product has hurt you? Victims and their loved ones have a right to be compensated for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by situations like these.

What is Product Liability?

Manufacturers and sellers of products are responsible to the public to ensure that their products are safe when used as intended or when misused in a potentially foreseeable way. Both manufacturers and sellers of products can be held liable for injuries caused by hazardous or defective products.

Product liability cases typically fall into three categories: manufacturing defects, design defects, and failure to warn. Some examples of injuries that would qualify for a product liability lawsuit include medical complications from a prescription drug contaminated at the factory, serious burns from a defective heating pad, or a child sustaining an eye injury from a toy lacking proper warning labels or clear instructions.

What is Premises Liability?

Owners of businesses and homes have a responsibility to ensure that they provide a safe environment for customers or guests on their property. Both the property owner and the party responsible for maintaining the property can be held liable for injuries sustained on their premises, whether it’s due to intentional or unintentional negligence or failure to post warnings.

Some examples of injuries that would qualify for a premises liability lawsuit include a child being attacked by a dog while retrieving a ball from a neighbor’s yard, a broken hip from slipping on ice in a poorly plowed parking lot, or a head injury from slipping on a recently mopped floor without a caution sign.

What do Premises Liability and Product Liability Have in Common?

Both types of cases involve a duty of care that property owners and product manufacturers have to the general public. Manufacturers and retailers must make and sell safe products, and property owners must provide a safe place to shop, visit, or live. When they fail in that duty, it becomes their legal responsibility to pay for your resulting medical expenses, pain, suffering, lost wages, and loss of future earning capacity.

In Pennsylvania, both premises and product liability cases have a two-year statute of limitations. This means that you only have two years from the time of your injury (or from when a reasonable person should have become aware) to file a claim in court.

How are Premises Liability Cases Handled in Pennsylvania?

To file a premises liability claim in Pennsylvania, you must be able to prove three things:

  1. The company or its employees knew about the hazard.
  2. They had time to remedy the situation before your injury occurred.
  3. You were owed a duty of safety.

For example, a property owner can’t be held responsible if a customer spills a bottle of soap, and then another customer slips and falls before employees have been made aware of the spill.

Under Pennsylvania law, trespassers generally aren’t owed a duty of safety. The one major exception is minor children who are injured while trespassing. A property owner must protect children from hazards on their property, particularly if they have something on their property that’s likely to attract children. Examples include things like a swimming pool or trampoline in an unfenced backyard.

It’s important to note that the state of Pennsylvania uses a comparative negligence model when determining who is to blame for incidents of negligence and how damages can be awarded. Under the law, an injured party will only be compensated if they carry less of the blame than the property owner. If the injured person is partially responsible, they will only be awarded a portion of the damages for their injury.

How are Product Liability Cases Handled in Pennsylvania?

To file a product liability claim in Pennsylvania, you need to prove that your injury was caused by a product that was used as intended (with some exceptions), and that the product was not modified or misused in an unforeseen way.

Under Pennsylvania law, manufacturers are not required to warn of obvious dangers, but a company can still face liability if someone was injured while using a product incorrectly so long as the misuse was potentially foreseeable. An example would be the common knowledge not to stick your hand into a running snowblower, but a foreseeable misuse could be reaching into a stalled snowblower to dislodge a rock. If a manufacturer has failed to warn that a consumer should not do this, they could be held responsible for injuries obtained in this way.

What if I Was Injured at Work?

In Pennsylvania, you typically can’t sue your employer or co-workers for negligence in causing an injury in the workplace. These types of injuries usually fall under workers’ compensation. However, you may have a claim if you were injured as a result of negligence on the part of a third party, such as the maker of a faulty piece of factory equipment. Likewise, you may have a premises liability claim if someone other than your employer is responsible for your injury, such as slipping in the parking lot if another company is responsible for plowing and salting in the winter.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured?

It’s important to hire an experienced attorney to help determine if you have a case. A good legal team will evaluate the specifics of your case by analyzing the facts, circumstances, and extent of your injuries to determine who was negligent, as well as how much you’re owed.

Another issue that can complicate matters in both premises liability and product liability cases is if you have any pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies will often claim that an injury is fully or partially due to that condition, and not the incident that prompted the lawsuit. If you were injured by a product or on someone else’s property and have a pre-existing condition, it’s imperative to have an expert advocate to protect your rights.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

If you have been seriously injured due to a business’s or individual’s negligence (either on their property or by their product), the experienced attorneys at Ross Feller Casey are here to help. Our accomplished legal team has a proven track record of winning both premises and product liability cases for our clients and have negotiated and litigated more than $3 billion in personal injury cases for our clients.

We have a dedicated team of doctor-lawyers on staff, so we understand how complex your medical future may be after a severe injury. We’re here to make sure you and your loved ones have the financial stability needed for whatever the future holds.

At Ross Feller Casey, we offer free case evaluations, and we work on a contingency basis, meaning that we only get paid if we win. Please call or contact our office today to set up a free consultation.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.