The term “invitee” is significant in Fayetteville premises liability cases, when the issue is what duty is owed to a person injured on someone else’s property. As the term suggests, an “invitee” is someone who is on someone else’s property because they were invited by the owner of the property. There are two types of invitees, depending on the reason for the invitation: a business invitee or a public invitee. If you are on the property in question in order to conduct some type of business, then you are a business invitee. On the other hand, if the property is made available to the public, then you are a public invitee.
In most situations, the person bringing a premises liability case is considered a business invitee, as they are on the premises for a business purpose, meaning the reason for being there will affect the owner’s financial status. The most common example is a customer at a store. The customer is invited to the premises in the hope that he or she will buy something. A business invitee can also be someone hired to perform some type of work on the business property. Those workers are being paid in exchange for the work they perform.
When property is held open to the public at large, then its visitors are considered invitees, as well. For example, members of the public visiting a public park to ride bikes or play Frisbee, are public invitees. However, someone who breaks into a public library after hours, would not be considered an invitee. Instead, that person would be a trespasser, because the library was not open to the public at that time.
When would someone not be considered an invitee?
In Fayetteville, an invitee who goes beyond the boundaries of the invitation loses his or her invitee status, like in the case of the person breaking into the public library. Another example would be a customer who, initially, is an invitee, but if he goes into the back storage area meant only for employees, despite clear warning signs, he will no longer be considered an invitee. This distinction is important because the duty of care that a property owner owes is based on the status of the person who is injured.
What duty is owed to an invitee?
A property owner has a duty to protect any visitors on his property from dangerous conditions. When a property owner fails to meet this duty, he or she may be liable for the injuries a visitor sustains. However, the extent of the duty that is owed, depends on the status of the visitor. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care. If there is a dangerous condition on the property that would cause an unreasonable risk of harm to an invitee, and the property owner knows, or reasonably should know of the condition, the owner must use ordinary care to reduce or eliminate the danger, or to warn invitees about the danger.
There may be exceptions, such as when the dangerous condition is easy to detect. In those cases, the property owner may raise the affirmative defense that the condition was “open and obvious.” A visitor has a duty to protect himself or herself when the dangerous condition is open and obvious.
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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