Fall Downs Accidents (Slip and Falls) Classifications
Property owners and their tenants owe the highest duty of care to individuals they invite onto their property. In some states, customers of businesses have the status of business invitees. The owner of the business is under the duty to protect the business visitor, not only against dangers the owner knows about, but also against those which with reasonable care he or she might discover. The business invitee enters the business’ premises with the assurance that the business owner has taken steps for his or her protection and safety while on the business premises. The store customer is entitled to rely upon the business owner’s performance of his or her duty to make the premises safe.
A lesser standard of care is required with respect to licensees. In states in which that classification is used, a licensee may be defined as a person who may enter or remain on the property only by virtue of the consent of the possessor of that property. For example, social guests are licensees. Even though a social guest is normally invited, he or she is not on the property for business reasons. A person who cuts through a business parking lot to get to another location is also a licensee.
A possessor of land is subject to liability to his licensees for injuries caused by the possessor’s failure to exercise reasonable care for their safety only under certain circumstances. The licensee must show 1) that the possessor should have expected that the licensee would not discover the danger and 2) that the licensee did not know or have reason to know of the danger. Thus, hidden dangers subject the possessor to liability, but open dangers do not.
A trespasser is one who enters the land of another without any right to do so or who goes beyond the rights or privileges which he or she has been granted by license or invitation. As a general rule, the owner or occupier’s duty to a trespasser is to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring the trespasser. However, foreseeable trespassers may, under certain circumstances, be entitled to greater protection. Thus, an attractive nuisance, such as an unfenced swimming pool, may subject the owner to liability if a child from the neighborhood wanders in and drowns. It is foreseeable that this might happen. Thus, the possessor must protect even trespassers from harm in this kind of case.