This is the final segment of a series titled Personal Injuries & Thanksgiving, which identifies major safety concerns during this holiday period. Previously, we addressed the dangers associated with holiday travel, largely due to automobile accidents, possible hazardous weather conditions, as well as possible injuries during the busy shopping season. In the third segment, we introduced the concept of premises liability, particularly as it relates to property owners who are retailers. Here, we will discuss potential dangers that may exist at home during Thanksgiving and also view Colorado's premises liability laws from the homeowner's standpoint for liability and elaborate on the “visitor status” classifications in the law.
Colorado's Premises Liability Act defined the statutory duty landowners have to care for those on their property. The legislative intent in creating the Act was to foster a legal environment that encouraged private property rights and promoted business, while increasing access to affordable insurance. In addition, it sought to further protect property owners from liability that was not addressed under common law. Homeowner liability is influenced by the legal status or classification of guests in three categories:
- Invitee: Those visiting the premises for the benefit of the property owner or mutual business interests among parties. Invitees are owed a duty of care protecting them against potentially harmful conditions that the owner is aware of (or should be).
- Licensee: A party on the premises to advance their own interests with the owner's consent or knowledge. Social guests of the owner are also considered licensees. A licensee may seek recovery for damages that result from failures by the owner to exercise care or warn about potentially dangerous conditions that they were aware of, or those not ordinarily present.
- Trespasser: A trespasser is one who entered the property without consent. They may only pursue recovery for damages in situations where the landowner deliberately (intentionally) caused harm to the individual.
Potential Thanksgiving Hazards in a Home
Keep floor walking areas clear; items such as toys and shoes can trip someone, particularly older adults who may have poor balance or vision. On Thanksgiving you may use more electric items such as coffee maker, warming dishes, and other portable appliances. Be sure that these cords are not positioned dangerously for someone to trip over. Improper maintenance such as loose hand rails that may come detached, damaged stairs, or floor boards are all dangerous. On the driveway, exterior stairs, and entryways, it is important to clear snow and ice and apply a product such as salt to prevent ice formation.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are over 4,000 fires on Thanksgiving. In 2015, there were over 1,700 significant fires that needed fire department response. Fires in homes are four times more likely on Thanksgiving. The largest single factor is people leaving food cooking unattended. Items like utility lighters and matches should be kept out of the reach of children. Children should not be left alone in areas where candles are lit and smoke detectors should also always be tested.
When items are cooking, particularly on the stove, they should be monitored and children should be kept out of the area. Knives should never be left sitting out when children are in the home. Improperly stored or under-cooked turkey can cause salmonella poisoning. A thermometer should be used to confirm that refrigerated raw turkey remains near 40 degrees and also to confirm that the internal temperature of a cooked turkey reaches 165 degrees. All items that come in contact with raw turkey should be cleaned after usage to avoid contamination.
Over 40 million turkeys are prepared each Thanksgiving. A small, yet increasing percentage of these are cooked at home in deep-fryers, a practice that has risen in popularity. State Farm Insurance recommends positioning deep fryers 10 feet away from your home when in use and should not be used in garages or on decks. Turkeys should be properly thawed before deep frying to avoid possible bursts of hot liquid. Fryer usage should be monitored at all times.
If you and your family adhere to the tips and information provided in this series, hopefully your holiday season will be accident-free while full of fun, relaxation, and social time. Happy Thanksgiving from us at the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal.