By John DiMotto
Another species of personal injury lawsuits is the Safe Place action. In Wisconsin, the legislature enacted section 101.11 which is referred to as the Safe Place statute. By virtue of this law, it imposes a duty upon every employer to furnish a place of employment which shall be safe for the employees and frequenters. Furthermore, it imposes a duty upon every employer and every owner of a place of employment or a public building to construct, repair or maintain such place as to render it safe.
The Safe Place statute:
1) provides three alternative bases for liability. It applies to employers, owners of public buildings and owners of places of employment.
2) does not create a new cause of action but it does establish an increased standard of care, the violation of which is negligence.
3) it pertains to unsafe conditions as opposed to ordinary negligence which pertains to acts.
4) it does not require an employer to protect employees against wilful, unlawful or even negligent acts of others.
5) is concerned with structural defects or unsafe conditions associated with the structure.
6) alters common law where premises were merely required to be reasonably safe and now requires places of employment and public buildings to be kept as free from danger as the nature of the place will reasonably permit.
7) focuses primarily on property condition that caused injury rather than the duty that property owner breached.
Under the Safe Place statute:
1) liability is imposed if the premises are not kept as free from danger as the nature of the place will reasonably permit.
2) an employer or owner is not an insurer of frequenters.
3) "safe" is a relative term. It does not mean completely free of all hazards.
4) a place of employment is where a business is going on and person employed. It does not encompass solitary or even occasional business related pursuits in a private residence.
5) public building needs three or more units and applies to areas open to the public.
6) actual or constructive notice is needed where the claim is unsafe conditions associated with the structure.
7) there is no notice requirement with respect to structural defects.
Oftentimes when a plaintiff brings an action alleging a Safe Place violation, the plaintiff includes a second cause of action for ordinary negligence. The plaintiff may contend that there were both "acts" and "conditions" that played a role in causing injury. Since the Safe Place statute sets forth an increased standard of care, the jury could find that there is no ordinary negligence because that duty of care was met yet the jury can find that the "increased" duty of care imposed by the Safe Place statute was not met.
The Wisconsin's Safe Place statute provides added protection and remedies for employees and frequenters of places of employment and public buildings who are injured.
In my next blog, I will look at the "Dog Bite" personal injury action.