When people enter a property they have the right to expect the property is reasonably safe. Property owners have a legal obligation to make sure visitors don’t get hurt by unsafe conditions. The specific obligations a property owner has to protect each visitor is defined by premises liability law.
A visitor is called a property entrant, and under California law there are three primary categories of property entrants. Traditionally, the category an entrant fell in determined what specific obligations, or legal duties, a property owner had. However, in 1968 the Supreme Court of California changed the rules and now the category a visitor fits in is just one of many things a jury considers when deciding if a property owner should have to pay damages for injuries caused by accidents on the property.
How are Visitors to a Property Classified?
Visitors who enter public and private properties are divided into three primary categories. The categories include:
- Invitees: Guests on public property, or guests who are invited to a property for the economic benefit of the owner (examples include shoppers in a store).
- Licensees: Guests invited to property as social guests, not to give any economic benefit to the owner (examples include friends invited to lunch).
- Trespassers: People who enter a property uninvited without the permission of the owner.
Property owners traditionally have more of an obligation to ensure the safety of invitees, compared with other people who enter a property. The property owner has to inspect the premises, identify defects or hazardous conditions, and either provide a warning of dangerous conditions or make reasonable efforts to correct hazards.
Property owners have an intermediate obligation to licensees. When a licensee is visiting, property owners have to correct dangerous conditions or warn about hazards the owners know, or should have known, exist on the property.
Finally, property owners have only a minimal obligation to trespassers. Property owners can’t set traps for trespassers and property owners have to warn trespassers of serious hazards, but only if the owner knew trespassers were repeatedly coming onto their property.
Courts used to exclusively consider the category that a visitor was placed in when deciding if the property owner should have to pay for damages after an injury. In Rowland v. Christian in 1968, the California Supreme Court ended this rigid system after an injured victim lost a case before a jury even heard the evidence, because the judge held the victim didn’t have a valid argument to make under the current law.
Now, juries in California consider a wide variety of different factors when a person gets hurt on property and wants to hold the property owner accountable. The jury’s goal is to determine if the property owner was reasonable in protecting visitors from harm. California Civil Jury Instructions 1001 defines the factors the jury is to consider in assessing the liability of the property owner.
Get Help from a Long Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
Your Injuries are Personal to Me
I provide representation to clients injured on someone else’s property. I will determine what category of visitor you would be classified as, and explain what impact this classification can have on your case. I will also make strong arguments that the property owner violated a reasonable duty of care in a manner that resulted in your injury.
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