With the Christmas holidays over, and the mad shopping days behind us, it is very likely that either you, or someone you know, may have been injured in a store. You may have been walking through the mall carefree, when you slipped on something on the floor and fell. Do you file a lawsuit? If so, how do you know whether you actually have a claim? If you were in a store when you were injured, then the most important question is “what duty of care is owed to an invitee?
What does “invitee” mean?
The term “invitee” is a legal term that describes an individual that was invited onto someone else’s property by the owner. If the property is a business, then the invitee is referred to, more specifically, as a business invitee. If the property is open to the public, like a public park or recreation center, then the invitee is a public invitee. The term “invitee” is important in premises liability cases, because it signifies the duty that is owed to that particular person if they are injured.
Determining liability for injuries to a business invitee
A business invitee is owed the highest degree of care. If you are a business invitee, you are on the premises for the benefit of the business that owns the property. In other words, your presence has a positive effect on the owner’s financial status. As a mall customer, you were invited to the premises with the hope that you will purchase the goods being sold by the store owners.
What duty is owed under the highest standard of care?
Under the law, a store is required to exercise reasonable care and disclose to its invitees all dangerous conditions of which it has notice. If the invitee could have reasonably discovered that dangerous condition on his or her own, then there may not be liability. That situation is known as an “open and obvious” danger. Any warning that is given to invitees must allow that person to decide intelligently against the danger, in order to be legally sufficient. If the warning is insufficient, the premises owner may still be held liable for injuries. The specific facts of each situation are always different. These variances typically have a significant impact on your case.
When is an invitee not owed the highest duty?
There can be a situation where an invitee loses the status of an invitee. For instance, if someone enters a public park after hours, that person has gone beyond the boundaries of the invitation. If a store customer goes into an area of the store that is clearly identified as an “employees only” area, he has lost the status of invitee. In that case, there may be no duty owed.
If you have questions regarding business invitees, or any other premises liability issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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