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Drug overdose death raises questions of premise liability

As the opioid epidemic continues to claim lives in New York and nationwide, people often try to hold parties accountable for overdose deaths. A supreme court in another state recently decided in favor of a landlord sued by the surviving family of an overdose victim on the basis of premises liability.

The case involved a man who had not been occupying a property when an 18-year-old man consumed ketamine at the location and subsequently died. The property owner had allowed his employee and former girlfriend to live in the home without a formal lease. He admitted that he was aware that drug use occurred in the house, but he was not knowledgeable about the details of what went on. The lawsuit against him accused him of failing to prevent criminal activity and warn people visiting the property.

The court's decision hinged on the landlord's degree of foreseeability. The plaintiff had not provided evidence suggesting that the property owner contributed to the drug activity. The majority of justices declared that to impose premises liability for the visitor's death would mean that a property owner was responsible for the criminal activities of other people just because they were on the property. According to the court's majority, a property owner did not have a duty to act as a police or parole officer and monitor the actions of people visiting the location.

A person injured at a public or private property might be able to recover damages under the laws of premises liability under certain circumstances. A personal injury attorney may advise a person about the viability of a lawsuit after an accident. An attorney may gather evidence about unsafe conditions such as inadequate lighting or wet floors. If legal action succeeds, then a person might get a financial settlement for medical bills and lost income.

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