Liability for Indoor Rock Climbing Injuries

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 What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability holds property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that happened on their property. This includes any accidents and injuries that occurred in and around their business, or in their home.

Premises liability law requires that property owners ensure the safety of any person who enters their property, and take all reasonable measures in order to accomplish this. As a legal concept, it is generally associated with personal injury cases in which a person’s injury was caused by unsafe and/or defective conditions on someone else’s property.

Premises liability claims are most commonly based on the legal concept of negligence, which refers to a person failing to exercise reasonable care. That failure results in the damage or injury of another person. Negligence focuses on a person’s failure to take certain precautions and actions, as opposed to their direct actions.

In order to prove negligence, and therefore premises liability, the plaintiff must generally prove the following elements:

  1. The owner owed a duty of care to the person injured on their property;
  2. There was a dangerous, unsafe, and/or defective condition on their property;
  3. The owner knew of the dangerous, unsafe, and/or dangerous condition but failed to remedy the situation; and
  4. The injury occurred due to the owner’s failure to exercise their duty of care to prevent the accident and resulting injury.

A duty of care is generally owed to another person in any situation in which a person may foreseeably be injured due to another person’s actions, or inaction. A breach of this duty occurs when a person does not act as reasonably or prudent as another person would under the same circumstances.

As such, it must be proven that the property owner’s negligence was the “actual and proximate” cause of the injuries being claimed. This is also referred to as causation. Once the other three elements have been proven, the plaintiff must then prove that there was some quantifiable loss or damage as a result of the property owner’s negligence.

Who Can Be Held Liable For Injuries Under Premises Liability?

Landowner liability largely depends on the tort liability status of the victim. Tort liability refers to who is responsible for the damage, harm, or injury. A victim may be liable if they contributed to their own injury apart from the actions of the property owner and their negligence.

The tort liability scale is as follows:

  • Invitees: Customers or patrons who have been invited onto the property by the owner. As such, the property owner has a duty to warn all invitees of risks that they are aware of, and if the risk of harm is unreasonable. Additionally, the property owner has a duty to inspect the premises in order to make themselves aware of any risks;
  • Licensees: Social guests that have entered or remained on the property for purposes other than business. They have special permission to do something on, or with, the property owner’s property. The property owner is responsible for warning licensees of dangerous conditions that they are aware of, and if the licensee did not know or did not have a reason to know about the dangerous conditions; and
  • Trespassers: People who have entered or remained on the premises without the permission of the property owner. State laws governing trespassing vary, but in general, a property owner does not have a duty to warn the trespasser of dangerous conditions. This is especially true if the property owner is unaware of the trespasser’s presence. However, property owners do have a duty to warn known or tolerated trespassers of any dangerous conditions.

In general, a property owner owes this highest duty of care to invitees. They then owe a lesser duty of care to licensees. Finally, property owners owe little to no duty of care to trespassers.

It is important to note that special duties apply to child trespassers in that property owners must take additional precautions in order to prevent harm to child trespassers. Because of the attractive nuisance doctrine, if the property owner has something on their property that would attract children to use it such as a slide, they must take reasonable precautions to ensure that the slide is safe because it is likely to attract children.

If the property owner is found to be negligent or breached their duty of care to prevent an accident or injury from occurring on their property, the plaintiff may be awarded damages such as:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Future and present medical bills;
  • Lost income or loss of earning capacity; and/or
  • Punitive or treble damages.

They may also be ordered to repair or fix the dangerous condition that led to the injury.

Who Can Be Held Liable For Indoor Rock Climbing Injuries?

Engaging in extreme sports such as rock climbing can result in serious injury. Whenever a person is seriously injured while participating in an activity, they may attempt to obtain compensation for their injury from whoever is liable for the injury. Liability for an indoor rock climbing injury largely depends on who caused the accident, and whether the victim signed a liability waiver.

A liability waiver is a form releasing a party from being liable for harm done to the person who signed it. In other words, they waive their right to sue for any injury or loss sustained. Liability waivers are commonly used for inherently dangerous activities such as indoor rock climbing, and may also be known as a waiver, release, or liability release form.

An example of this would be if a person signed a liability waiver form given to them by an indoor rock climbing company. While rock climbing, they fall and are injured. The company may be at fault, but the waiver means that the plaintiff is barred from suing the company, even though the company may be liable for their injuries.

However, there are some cases in which they can sue, even if a liability waiver was signed. An example of this would be if the rock climbing company was somehow negligent in their operations. This also depends on whether the jurisdiction that a person sues in regards indoor rock climbing as an ultra-hazardous activity.

Under the theory of strict liability, an ultra-hazardous activity is defined as an act that is so dangerous that the person performing can be held liable for another person’s injuries caused by the participation. An example of this would be if a fellow rock climber causes the plaintiff to fall off the rock wall; it does not matter whether the person purposely intended to injure the individual.

The elements for proving that a plaintiff was injured during an ultra-hazardous activity include:

  1. The activity involved a risk of serious harm to property and/or individuals;
  2. The activity could not be performed without the risk of serious harm, regardless of the degree of care that was used; and
  3. The activity is not one that is commonly engaged in by others in the community

Because the accident may have been caused by a malfunction or failure of the climbing gear, the manufacturer may be liable. This would be especially true if it is your personal climbing gear, and not property of the facility.

If a defendant is unable to use a liability waiver as a defense, they may be able to use the following defenses:

Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Liability For Indoor Rock Climbing Injuries?

If you have been injured while indoor rock climbing, you should contact a personal injury attorney.

An experienced attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.


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