Liability for Infections Or Injuries Sustained in a Homeless Shelter
If a person stays in a homeless shelter and contracts an infection such as staph or a MRSA infection, can the homeless shelter be held liable? And if so, what would a successful plaintiff need to prove in order to receive compensation for her personal injuries?
In short, depending upon the specific facts of your case, you may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit, arguing that the homeless shelter was negligent for failing to keep you safe from knowable harms. To better understand how some of these cases might work, we should take a look at some hypothetical examples.
Premises Liability Law in Colorado
Are homeless persons in Denver contracting infections after staying in homeless shelters? And if so, do they have any recourse? According to an article in Westword.com, one homeless man caught a staph infection while staying at a homeless shelter in Denver. Such infections are common at these facilities, as another homeless man emphasized that he avoids Denver’s homeless shelters specifically because he worries about germs and infection. Could these men—or other homeless persons who sustain injuries or infections at shelters—file premises liability claims?
According to C.R.S. § 13-21-115, an injured party can file a premises liability claim against a landowner who does not exercise reasonable care in maintaining his or her property when that landowner’s failure results in the injury. Premises liability law distinguishes between invitees and licensees. Generally speaking, an invitee is someone who has been expressly invited onto the property, while a licensee is someone who has been implicitly invited or is allowed to be on the property. If we assume that a homeless person staying at a shelter would be considered an invitee, then we can take a closer look at how the law treats invitees.
Under C.R.S. § 13-21-115(3)(c), an invitee can recover for “damages caused by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he actually knew or should have known.”
Filing a Premises Liability Claim for an Infection at a Homeless Shelter
How might a premises liability law claim work for a homeless person staying at a homeless shelter? If we were to assume that a homeless person at a shelter would be considered an invitee under the law, then that person might be able to recover damages for an infection, such as a staph infection, if the owner of the homeless shelter knew or should have known about a serious infection at the facility.
What would someone need to prove? In general, a homeless person would need to be able to prove that the owner of the shelter knew or should have known that there was a risk of infection. To prove that, a plaintiff might show some of the following:
- Several different homeless people who stayed at the shelter sustained an infection, and the owner knew about it.
- Evidence that conditions at the homeless shelter were unsanitary, or that the homeless shelter did not take proper sanitary measures in cleaning bedding, for instance.
- Someone at the homeless shelter informed the owner about the presence of staph infection and the owner did not take any steps to prevent other homeless people at the shelter from contracting the infection.
These are just a few examples of evidence that might help to show that the owner of a homeless shelter could be liable for damages. It is also important to note that homeless shelters and other nonprofit organizations often purchase liability insurance to cover them in the event of a premises liability lawsuit.
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