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Abstract

In 2015, Maine’s premises liability law made an evolutionary leap. In Maine, the elements of a premises liability claim are the same as a negligence claim: duty of care, breach of that duty, causation, and harm to the plaintiff. Since the late nineteenth century, the duty element had remained consistent and predictable: a property owner, possessor, or proprietor owes a duty of reasonable care to individuals who are lawfully on the premises. As a result, premises liability defendants had always shared the common trait of owning, possessing, or managing the premises in question. In Brown v. Delta Tau Delta , the Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, expanded premises liability to cover a business entity that did not own, possess, or manage the premises in question, but nonetheless knew the tort would happen. The entity foresaw the tort, enjoyed a close relationship with the tortfeasor, and had sufficient control over the tortfeasor’s actions. Therefore, the entity had a duty of care. The court reached these conclusions after examining the series of events leading to the claim. This note begins with a discussion of those events. In 2015, Maine’s premises liability law made an evolutionary leap. In Maine, the elements of a premises liability claim are the same as a negligence claim: duty of care, breach of that duty, causation, and harm to the plaintiff. Since the late nineteenth century, the duty element had remained consistent and predictable: a property owner, possessor, or proprietor owes a duty of reasonable care to individuals who are lawfully on the premises. As a result, premises liability defendants had always shared the common trait of owning, possessing, or managing the premises in question. In Brown v. Delta Tau Delta , the Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, expanded premises liability to cover a business entity that did not own, possess, or manage the premises in question, but nonetheless knew the tort would happen. The entity foresaw the tort, enjoyed a close relationship with the tortfeasor, and had sufficient control over the tortfeasor’s actions. Therefore, the entity had a duty of care. The court reached these conclusions after examining the series of events leading to the claim. This note begins with a discussion of those events.

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