The law of premises liability determines who is responsible if someone is injured while on someone else’s property. The extent of liability is based on the status of the injured party at the time of the injury. In other words, why was the person on the property in the first place?
In a premises liability case in Joplin, a “licensee” is a person who has permission from the property owner to be on the property. The distinction between a licensee and an “invitee,” who also has permission, is that the licensee is there for his or her own purpose or amusement, rather than for business purposes, such as a customer. A common example is a party guest or family friend. Those individuals may have an invitation to visit or use the property, but they are not there to provide a benefit to the property owner.
There are some situations where a person can enter a store or business, but still be classified as a licensee. For instance, someone who enters a store to ask for directions, use the restroom or to retrieve something that belongs to them, would likely be classified as licensees as opposed to an invitee.
What duty is owed to a licensee?
A property owner owes a distinct duty of care to licensees, invitees and trespassers on their property. In most cases, trespassers are owed the least amount of care, while invitees are entitled to the most. The duty of care a property owner owes to a licensee lies in the middle.
Generally speaking, a property owner is liable for a licensee’s injuries if:
- The owner knew there was a condition on the property that posed an unreasonable risk of harm;
- The owner could not reasonably expect visitors to recognize the danger or appreciate how serious the danger was;
- The owner did not use reasonable care to eliminate the danger or to warn visitors of the dangerous condition on the property; and
- The licensee was unaware of the dangerous condition and the risk of danger it created.
Are there exceptions to the duty owed a licensee?
Yes. A licensee can lose his or her status and, instead, become a trespasser. This could occur if the licensee goes beyond any boundaries established by the property owner for its licensees. For example, if the guest of a party is invited into the living room, the door to the basement is shut and the owner tells the guests the basement is off limits, any licensee who may be injured while walking down the basement steps may not have a claim against the property owner. Of course, the guest must have known the basement was off limits for this exception to apply.
If you or someone you know has been injured while on the premises of someone else, you should contact a personal injury attorney to determine your rights and decide whether a lawsuit would be appropriate in your situation.
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