​Premises Liability Laws in Colorado

Premises liability is a unique form of a negligence action that holds owners of land responsible for certain injuries to others occurring on their property.

Different Standards of Care

A landowner owes a different duty of care to different people depending on their legal status while on the property.

There are three legal statuses relevant to premises liability cases:

  1. Trespasser
  2. Licensee
  3. Invitee

A judge determines the legal status of a person while he or she was on the property and looks to certain factors to determine the legal status of the injured person at the time of the injury.

Available Damages for Each Legal Status

  • Trespasser: only damages willfully or deliberately caused by the property owner
  • Licensee: only recover for damages caused:
    • by property owner's failure to use reasonable care concerning dangers he or she knew about; or
    • the property owner's unreasonable failure to warn of dangers he or she did not create and are not ordinarily present on the property.
  • Invitee: only recover for damages caused by landowner's failure to use reasonable care to protect against dangers he actually knew about or should have known about.

Below, our Colorado personal injury attorneys address frequently asked questions about premises liability in personal injury lawsuits and the injuries you may have suffered:

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1. What is premises liability in Colorado?

Premises liability is a type of negligence action that:

  • holds owners of land responsible
  • for certain injuries to others
  • that occur on their property.

1.1 What kinds of cases fall under this category?

There are many different kinds of premise liability cases that exist, such as, but not limited to:

  • slip and falls
  • dog bites
  • drowning in a pool
  • falling from a deck or porch
  • slippery sidewalks due to water or ice, or
  • stepping on a nail in the grass.

2. Who can I sue under a premises liability action?

Under the Colorado premises liability statute, an injured person may sue the landowner for the injuries he or she suffered while on the property at issue.

A landowner is defined as:

  • an authorized agent or a person in possession of real property; and/or
  • a person legally responsible for the condition of real property or for the activities conducted or circumstances existing on real property.1

This means that the definition of a landowner is much more broad than just the person or business that actually owns the property.

2.1 Who else could be sued under the "landowner" definition?

Examples of other individuals who could face a lawsuit under this definition include:

  • property managers
  • vendors
  • tenants
  • contractors
  • event organizers or planners, and
  • any other entity or person responsible for the condition of the land and the activities taking place on the land.

3. What are the different categories of legal statuses in premises liability cases?

Different standards of care are owed to people on property depending on their legal status.

There are three legal statuses relevant to premises liability cases:

  1. Trespassers;
  2. Licensees; and
  3. Invitees.

3.1 What is a trespasser?

A trespasser is "a person who enters or remains on the land of another without the landowner's consent."2 This is a person that has not been invited and is not allowed on the property.

A trespasser could include a person who was once given permission but has exceeded that permission and remained on the property of the landowner.

3.2 What is a licensee?

A licensee is "a person who enters or remains on the land of another for the licensee's own convenience or to advance his own interests, pursuant to the landowner's permission or consent. 'Licensee' includes a social guest."3

Most guests at a person's home fall under the licensee definition.

Example: Maris is invited to Niles' birthday party at his home in Colorado Springs. While on his property, she steps on to his porch, which has a rusty nail protruding upward, and the nail pierces her thin shoe and into her foot. Niles was aware of the nail, but accidentally failed to mention it to his guests. Maris is a licensee as a "social guest" and could sue Niles for her damages.

3.3 What is an invitee?

An invitee is a "person who enters or remains on the land of another to transact business in which the parties are mutually interested or who enters or remains on such land in response to the landowner's express or implied representation that the public is requested, expected, or intended to enter or remain."4

This typically includes those who come onto another's land for business purposes, such as those shopping in a grocery store. This also includes areas open to the public and on which the landowner wishes for the public to be present.

4. Who decides the legal status of a person for this type of lawsuit?

A judge makes the determination of the legal status of an individual while he or she was on the property. The judge considers various factors to ascertain the legal status of the victim at the time of the injury:

  • the circumstances under which the person was on the property;
  • the way he or she was using the property;
  • the foreseeability of the accident; and
  • the reasonableness of the landowner's efforts to warn visitors of any dangers.

5. What damages can I get from my premises liability lawsuit?

The type of damages a person can receive depends on the legal status he or she was at the time of the accident while on the property.

  • Trespasser: only damages willfully or deliberately caused by property owner.5
  • Licensee: only recover for damages caused:
    • by property owner's failure to use reasonable care concerning dangers he or she knew about; or
    • the property owner's unreasonable failure to warn of dangers he or she did not create and are not ordinarily present on the property.6
  • Invitee: only recover for damages caused by landowner's failure to use reasonable care to protect against dangers he actually knew about or should have known about.7

While a judge decides the type of damages that may be recovered, a jury will decide the factual issues of how much the injuries are worth and decide how much damages are appropriate under the circumstances.

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Call us for help...

For questions about premises liability cases or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. For cases in California or Nevada, please visit our pages on premises liability laws in California and premises liability laws in Nevada.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. CRS 13-21-115(1). (Actions against landowners).
  2. CRS 13-21-115(5)(c).
  3. CRS 13-21-115(5)(b).
  4. CRS 13-21-115(5)(a).
  5. CRS 13-21-115(3)(a).
  6. CRS 13-21-115(5)(b).
  7. CRS 13-21-115(5)(c).

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The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

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