What Duty of Care Does a Property Owner Owe a Visitor?
After determining which category an injured falls into, a court will analyze what duty of care is owed by the property owner. Generally, the duty of care will be as follows:
Duty of Care Owed to Licensees: The property owner is usually only liable for willful or wanton injury to a licensee. This means the property owner must exercise enough care to prevent injury to a visitor who is known to be or could reasonably be expected to be within the range of a dangerous act or condition (i.e. warn the licensee of a known hazard). However, the property owner is not required to inspect the premises or to immediately fix dangerous conditions.
Duty of Care Owed to Invitees: The property owner must exercise ordinary care to keep the premises safe. This includes protecting invitees from any dangerous conditions the owner knows about or should reasonably know about. The property owner must also inspect the property and must either fix or warn invitees about any dangerous conditions. An example of this is the “Caution: Wet Floor” signs that is commonly used in retail and grocery stores.
Duty of Care Owed to Trespassers: Because there is now true relationship between a trespasser or property owner, the law is much more lenient when it comes to the duty of care owed by the property owner. The property owner is not required to fix any dangerous conditions nor must the property owner warn trespassers about potential hazards. However, a property owner can be held liable for creating dangerous conditions on his property or making dangers conditions worse in order to catch trespassers.