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Warning signs do not always protect against premises liability

| Jul 31, 2018 | Premises Liability |

Anyone who owns or rents a California building bears responsibility for keeping it safe for residents, guests, employees and even people who might trespass on the property. Should a person be injured on the property due to unsafe conditions, an owner or a renter may end up on the hook for that person’s medical bills. Some people may believe, however, that a warning sign might be the answer to warding off liability. While warning signs can reduce the risk of liability, they do not guarantee that the property owner will never be held liable.

Not all building defects or damage can be corrected immediately. Sometimes business owners do not have the personnel on hand to fix the problem and need to call in a contractor. In other cases, a spill or a defect will have to be corrected during business hours. Commonly, a store or a shop may put someone to work mopping up a spill with a yellow sign that warns store patrons of a wet floor.

However, warning signs do not fully abolish the possibility of premises liability. According to Forbes, a warning sign should be very noticeable. For example, most warning signs are in bright yellow, which catches the human eye much more strongly than many other colors. Since yellow is commonly known as a color denoting caution, a yellow sign typically will make people think there is a problem up ahead.

Consequently, if a warning sign is not placed in a location where it will be spotted and a person gets hurt, the injury victim could claim that the owner did not take all the appropriate steps to protect people from getting injured. Additionally, a person may claim negligence on the part of the owner if the warning sign does not project a clear warning like “Do not enter” or “Wet floor.”  

FindLaw also describes instances in which a simple “do not enter” sign may not be enough. It depends on the intent of the sign. If the sign is a general warning to trespassers to stay away from the property, people who trespass anyway could still claim the owner was negligent if the property contains unsafe conditions which the sign did not warn about. The property owner or renter should still put up warnings about specific problems with the premises.