You are walking through a store and trip over something in the aisle. Should you file a lawsuit? If so, who do you sue and what evidence do you need to prove your case? Liability in a premises liability case depends on why you were on that particular property, and whether the property owner breached the particular duty owed to you. If you were invited onto the property by the property owner, then you are considered an “invitee.” The elements of premises liability for invitees serve as an outline of the proof needed to prove your claim. These elements are pretty straightforward.
What is liability based on?
The basis for liability in premises liability cases starts with the reason you are on the property. The reason for your presence determines the relationship between you and the owner of the property, which in turn determines the degree of care you are owed while on the property. An individual’s status falls into one of three categories: licensee, invitee and trespasser. There are two types of invitees – business invitees and public invitees. The distinction between the two is that a business invitee is on the property to conduct some type of business, whereas a public invitee is on property that is open to the public. A business invitee is owed the highest degree of care.
Who is a business invitee specifically?
Being categorized as a business invitee means that you are on the premises for a business purpose. In other words, your purpose for being there will have an effect on the owner’s financial status. The most obvious example is a store customer. As a customer, you are invited to the premises with the hope or expectation that you will purchase something from the store owner.
A store owes an invitee the highest standard of care. The legal definition of an invitee, in Missouri, for instance, is “one who enters upon a premises with the express or implied consent of the possessor, and for some purpose of benefit or interest to the possessor or for the mutual benefit of both.”
What is required under the highest standard of care?
The legal standard states that the store must exercise reasonable care and disclose to all invitees any dangerous conditions which are known to the owner. There may be no liability if the invitee could reasonably have discovered the dangerous condition. This type of danger is often referred to as “open and obvious.” Premises owners also have a duty to see that the premises are safe for visitors, or at least determine the condition of the premises in order to provide a warning. A warning is only sufficient if it allows the invitee to decide intelligently against the danger. Remember that the specific facts of each case are different, and these differences can have a substantial impact on the success of that case.
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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