Rockafellow Law Firm

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Your legal status on others' land has consequences you should know

Your legal status on others' land has consequences you should know


Your Legal Status on Another's Property Matters, Here's Why.

Legal Status while on real property is important in terms of the duty the possessor of land owes to people on the land.   The Three Classifications are:

  1. Invitee
  2. Licensee
  3. Trespasser

Anyone entering a business such as a grocery store or hardware store is considered an invitee.  The landowner owes the highest duty of care to the invitee.  That does not mean the landowner is a guarantor of the invitee’s safety.  It does mean that the landowner must take reasonable precautions to make the sure the premises are safe for the reasonable and expected use of the property by the invitee.

Floors must be reasonably maintained to not present trip or slip hazards to the users.  In grocery stores for example, it is foreseeable that water will be spilled on the floor in the produce isle and tracked through the rest of the store.  This is why grocery stores have developed what they call a “Sweep Log” schedule to patrol the floors of the entire store every hour and remove anything that might create a slip or trip hazard to the invitee.  With a “Sweep Log” the store can prove reasonable diligence to monitor the floors for evidence of trip or slip hazards.  They have adopted a reasonable means to protect the customer and shield themselves from liability.

Persons invited into your home are considered licensees. They are there with your permission.  You still owe a duty of care, but not the duty a business owner owes to an invitee.  You don’t have to keep a “Sweep Log.” You don’t have to keep your home as safe as a business owner keeps his store.  However, if you know you have a loose tile in the walkway to the front door, you must fix it or warn of it.  If you know it exists and take no steps to repair it or warn of the danger it presents to your invitees, you are liable for their injury if they trip over it on their way to your front door.

The last category is trespasser.  The landowner owes no duty to a trespasser.  However, the landowner cannot willfully or wantonly cause an injury to a trespasser.   An example would be a vacation home used only occasionally.  You can’t set a trap for a trespasser if they enter the property as a trespasser.  That is a willful and wanton act that imposes liability on the landowner even if the claimant is a trespasser.   Another exception is an “Attractive Nuisance” such as an unfenced swimming pool that creates and unreasonable risk of harm to a curious child.

Always be aware of your surroundings.   If you see a hazard to others report it.

Finally, we wish all of our clients from the past, present, and future, a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2022.

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