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Who Are You: Invitee Or Trespasser? It Makes A Difference


There is a famous song from the rock group “The Who,” where they ask, over and over again, “Who are you?” That’s a classic line, which actually also is an important question when you are injured on someone else’s property.

You and the Property Owner

That’s because your relationship to the property owner is an important issue in determining how safe that property owner has to be—that is, what legal duties the property owner has to keep you safe. The higher the landowner’s duties to you are, the easier it will be for you to win your case.

Are You an Invitee?

At one end of the spectrum is what is known as the Invitee. An invitee is “invited” (though not personally), to come onto another’s property to conduct some sort of business, or to try to do so. You are an invitee to almost every retail or commercial property that you enter upon.

Property owners have the highest duty of care towards invitees. They must keep their property safe not just from known dangerous conditions, but even dangerous conditions that the property owner didn’t know about, but could have known about, had it acted with due diligence, and reasonable care.

The Trespasser

At the other end of the spectrum, is the trespasser. Generally, a landowner is never liable for injuries that happen to trespassers, unless the danger was created by an intentional or reckless act by the landowner, a standard much harder to prove than ordinary normal negligence. In some cases, the landowner may only have a duty to warn of dangerous conditions—the landowner need not repair or fix the dangerous condition.

Mixed Statuses

But in reality, things aren’t as black and white as invitee or trespasser.

For example, assume that you go into the drug store, for no other reason than to use their bathroom. Are you a trespasser? Likely not; the front door is open, and there is nothing that expressly prohibits you from using their bathroom.

On the other hand, a drug store is not a public bathroom, and you aren’t on the property to actually conduct or possibly conduct business. The purpose of your visit is not actually welcome by the business, nor is it the reason the business is there.

Trespassing can often also be very vague. Many trespassers don’t secretly bare the front gate open and sneak into the property under the cover of darkness. A customer can easily walk from the main shopping area of a store, into an employee area, and become a trespasser.

Or, trespassers may be “known” trespassers, such as the store that lets kids skateboard in the parking lot, even though they aren’t technically allowed on the property for that reason.

This is why the victim’s status—who the victim actually is, in relation to the business—goes a long way to determining whether a property owner is liable for a victim’s injuries.

Call the Clinton premises liability lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today if you were injured in an accident on someone else’s property.




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