Premises Liability laws widely vary from state to state. For instance, in some states the legal status of visitors could make a huge difference in the outcome of a case.
Under Tort law visitors to a property are divided under three legal categories: Invitee, Licensee, and Trespasser. However, a California case named Rowland v. Christian has almost eliminated the distinctions between Invitee and Licensee. It has instead imposed a “reasonable duty of care” standard, which asks: would a reasonable person act under the attendant circumstances as did the defendant?
An Invitee is referred to someone who is visiting a property, because the owner and/or occupier of the premises has invited, Expressly or Impliedly, the person to the property for the purpose of doing business. For instance, a person who enters a store to look at a pair of shoes is an Invitee, regardless of purchase. That is because, the property (Shop) is open to the general public.
The property owner or occupier has a duty to make their property safe for an invitee. This safety measure includes conducting reasonable inspections of the premises to discover any hidden dangers and fix them. The property owner or possessor has a duty to warn the invitee of hazardous conditions that cannot be fixed. Furthermore, property owners or occupiers have a duty to help an invitee, who sustains injury on their property.
A Licensee is a person who enters a property, despite the fact that the property is not open to general public, but the owner/occupier of the property has allowed the person to enter. For instance, a social guest is considered a licensee.
A property owner or occupier owes a Licensee a duty of reasonable care, which means, if there is a harmful condition on the property that is not visible to the licensee, and if the owner/occupier knows about that condition, he or she must warn the Licensee.
Under Tort Law, a Trespasser is referred to a person who enters someone’s property without implied or express permission. There are two types of trespass laws: Tort Trespass and Criminal Trespass.
Clearly entering or remaining on the property of another person, after the initial permission expires, create liability in the trespasser. Please note that the trespass must be intentional.
For example, a person walking on his own property trips and falls onto the adjacent property would not amount to trespass, because the person accidentally fell and not intentionally walked into the neighboring property.