In California, property owners—and sometimes renters and possessors—have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a safe condition and to warn visitors of any known hazards. However, the level of care owed used to vary depending on whether the visitors were invitees or licensees.
Let’s take a look at the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about these obligations, so you can decide how to proceed if you were hurt while running errands or visiting friends:
1. What Is an Invitee?
An invitee is someone who is invited onto the property for business or commercial purposes. For example, a customer visiting a store is considered an invitee. People who are invited onto public property are also considered invitees.
In California, property owners and occupiers used to owe invitees the highest level of care. As such, they were expected to maintain their premises to a reasonably safe standard and to warn invitees of any known hazards. They were also responsible for inspecting their property prior to inviting people onto the premises and addressing any hazards they discovered in the process.
2. What Is a Licensee?
A licensee is someone who enters a property for a social purpose, like a friend or relative of the homeowner stopping by for a visit. These parties do not convey any economic benefit for the owner.
In California, property owners used to owe licensees a lower level of care than they did invitees; however, they still had a duty to warn licensees of any known hazards they knew about (or should have known about) on the premises.
3. What Is the Distinction Between Invitees and Licensees Today?
In a 1968 case called Rowland v. Christian, the court said the distinction between invitees and licensees for the purpose of establishing liability was no longer determinative. Instead, a jury should assign liability based on the facts of the case, like whether the accident was foreseeable or preventable and how burdensome imposing the duty of care would have been on the property owner.
4. Are There Any Exceptions to the Duty of Care That California Property Owners Owe to Invitees and Licensees Today?
There are some exceptions to the duty of care owed to visitors. For example, property owners may not be held liable for injuries caused by open and obvious hazards that visitors should have been able to see and avoid. They also have little to no duty to trespassers.
5. What Should I Do If I Was Hurt on Someone Else’s Property?
If you slipped, tripped, or fell on someone else’s property, visit a doctor right away. Your health should be your first priority after such an accident. Seeking prompt treatment will also ensure a legitimate link between the accident and your injuries in the form of medical records.
If possible, you should report the incident to the property owner or manager, as well, and document any hazards that may have contributed to your injuries. Finally, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and options.
Call (562) 206-1939 for a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Premises Liability Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were seriously hurt because someone failed to maintain their premises, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. When you hire attorney Waks, you get attorney Waks, and you’ll have a direct line of contact to him from day one. Call (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a premises liability lawyer in Long Beach.
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