Property owners whose properties are open to the public, or to guests, have certain duties to people who come onto their land or into their buildings. The duty of taking care of a property can also extend to a renter or possessor, if they are responsible for taking care of the space. When an injury occurs on a property, the victim must show there was a dangerous condition, the property owner had a duty to correct or warn about the condition, and the property owner’s failure to fulfill the duty was the direct cause of harm.
Property owners do not have the same obligation to every person who comes to their land or building. Legally, visitors are classified into different categories such as “invitee” and “licensee”. Traditionally California juries would determine what category an injured accident victim fell into when assessing if a property owner failed in his duty, was negligent, and should be held liable for the victim’s losses.
What is the Difference Between an Invitee and a Licensee?
An invitee and a licensee are both guests who are welcomed onto a property, unlike a trespasser who comes onto a property without invitation. Invitees are welcomed onto an owner or renter’s property for the economic benefit of the owner, such as shoppers in a store or patrons in a restaurant. People who are invited onto public property are also considered invitees.
Licensees, on the other hand, are social guests. They are invited onto a private property, but not to convey any economic benefit on the land owner. A friend or a neighbor invited to someone’s house would be considered a licensee.
The distinction between an invitee and a licensee is important because invitees were traditionally owed a higher duty of care under California premises liability law. Property owners had to regularly inspect their premises before opening it to the public or opening it to invitees. Property owners had to identify all hazardous conditions that they could reasonably be expected to find through a careful investigation. The dangerous conditions then needed to be corrected, or guests had to be warned if correction was not reasonably possible.
Property owners had no specific duty of inspection before inviting licensees onto their property. While property owners still had to either correct dangerous conditions or warn licensees about them, this duty only extended to conditions the property owner knew, or should have known, existed. The distinction between licensees and invitees is not as important in California any more. In 1968 a case called Rowland v. Christian said the traditional distinctions should no longer be determinative in establishing the property owner’s duty of care. Instead, the court held a jury should decide liability in premises liability cases by the “balancing of a number of considerations” including whether harm was foreseeable, the moral blame attached to the owner’s actions, and the extent of the burden on the owner and consequences to the community associated with imposing a duty of care.
A Long Beach Injury Lawyer Can Help With Premises Liability Cases
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When you are hurt on someone else’s property I can help establish the duty of care owed to you and, if that duty was breached, I will fight to get you the maximum compensation owed to you.
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