The Basics of Premises Liability

photo of a caution sign at a businessEvery land or property owner owes a duty of care to visitors of the property to protect them from injuries, or not do anything to contribute to the potential chance of injury. The level of care depends on the type of visitor in question. In Alabama, there are three different categories visitors to land or property. Each category of visitor is owed a different level of care. The three categories of visitors to property are invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Each will be looked at in turn.

Invitees

An invitee is someone who enters the property of another to engage in the business or activity of the property owner. A common example of an invitee is a person visiting a store to shop. The invitee is invited onto the property, whether that invitation is expressed or implied, to engage in an activity that relates to the property owner’s interest. A property owner must exercise reasonable care to safeguard the invited visitors to the property from harm. This includes inspecting the property for any dangerous conditions that could injure the visitors. The property owner also has the duty to warn an invitee of any known risks to the property. For example, if a store has water on the floor, causing a potential slipping hazard, the property owner needs to warn the invitee of the danger within a reasonable amount of time.  The landowner has a duty to inspect their property for potential hazards.

Licensee

A licensee is one who enters the property of another, but without the purpose of engaging in the business of the landowner. A common example of a licensee is a person visiting a friend’s home. There is less of a duty of care owed to licensees than to invitees. This is because there is no business benefit to the property owner when the licensee is on the property. The property owner generally does not have a duty to inspect the property, but is still required to not wantonly or willfully injure the visitors to their property. Similarly, the landowner cannot negligently cause the licensee additional injury and the landowner should warn of any known dangers.

Trespasser

A trespasser is someone who was not invited, whether expressly or implicitly, onto the property of another. Since a trespasser is entering property without permission of the property owner, he or she is owed the least amount of duty of care. The property owner does have the duty to not wantonly or willfully injure the trespasser. Additionally, if the property owner is aware of a trespasser to the property, he or she has a duty to warn the trespasser of any known dangers or conditions.

The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

The three types of visitors to property discussed above are applicable to both children and adults. However, in an effort to protect children, there are other protections afforded, regardless of their visitor category. The attractive nuisance doctrine states that property owners can be held liable for injuries to children if there is an object or condition on the property that is attractive to children. This means that if there is something on the property that is irresistible to children, like a swimming pool, the property owner may have an increased duty of care than usual. However, there are conditions that must be met for the attractive nuisance doctrine to be applicable:

  • A dangerous condition must be present on the property;
  • The dangerous condition is attractive to children in that they would see it as a play area;
  • The dangerous condition is artificial (man-made)
  • The property owner must know of the dangerous condition
  • A child does not comprehend the dangerous nature of the condition;
  • The child was not warned about the dangerous condition.

If the attractive nuisance doctrine is applied, the property owner may be held liable for any injury sustained. The landowner can reduce his or her liability by taking steps to protect children from the attractive nuisance, like putting up a fence.

If you have been injured on the property of another, you might be entitled to damages for your injury. The category of visitor you are does not have to remain the same for the duration of your visit. A trespasser can become an invitee or licensee and vice versa. The personal injury attorneys at Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC are here to help you navigate your personal injury claim. Injuries can cause you more than just physical harm. Contact us today to find out if you might be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries.

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