Business Invitee

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December 05, 2011
  Duty Owed by Businesses to Customers Walking on Their Parking Lots, Sidewalks, Showroom Floors - Slip and Falls, Trip and Falls
Posted By Law Offices of Thomas J. Murphy

In Pennsylvania when a person enters another's land, under the law they are either a trespasser, a licensee or an invitee. The Possessor of land owes a different duty to each type of entrant upon his or her land. A trespasser is a person who enters or remains upon the land without the permission of the possessor of land. Consequently the possessor of land owes a trespasser the least duty of care to make the premises safe.

A licensee is a person who is privileged or allowed to enter the land with the possessor of land's consent. However, a licensee enters the land of another solely for his or her own purpose. The person entering the land of another does not enter the land for either a business or social purpose of the possessor of land. When a person walks on the sidewalk of another for that person's sole purpose of crossing the land to get to another destination, that person is considered a licensee. The possessor of land, or in this example the sidewalk, owes the person walking on the sidewalk a greater duty of care than for a trespasser as the person was permitted to walk on the sidewalk by either privilege or the owner's permission. However, since the possessor of land did not invite the person onto the sidewalk and the person is not on the sidewalk for any purpose related to the possessor of land, the possessor of land does not owe the licensee the same duty that would be owed to an invitee.

A business invitee is a person who is invited by the possessor of land to enter or remain on the land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of land. A customer on a store's property is a business invitee, as they are invited by the store to enter the land for the store owner's business purposes. Since the possessor of land invites the person onto the land for the possessor of land's purposes, the possessor of land owes an invitee the greatest duty of care to make and keep the premises safe.

Pennsylvania applies the Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 343 and 343A to determine a possessor of land's duty to a business invitee. Under §§ 343 and 343A the possessor of land is required to use reasonable care in the maintenance and use of his or her property and to protect his or her invitees from foreseeable harm. A possessor of land is also required to inspect the premises and to discover dangerous conditions and to use care not to injure a business invitee by negligent activity. A possessor of land is liable for harm caused to his or her invitees by a condition on the land if he or she

(a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm, and

(b) should expect that his invitees will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it, and

(c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.

A possessor of land is liable to his or her invitees for any harm he or she should have anticipated, regardless of whether the danger is known or obvious.

What distinguishes a possessor of land's obligation to a business visitor from its obligation to a licensee is the duty of inspection. The business visitor, who was invited onto the land for the possessor of land's business purposes is entitled to expect that the possessor of land has prepared the land to make it safe for the business visitor. Thus, the possessor of land is anticipating the arrival of the business visitor and has the higher duty to inspect the premises and prepare it in a safe way for the business visitor's use. Here a possessor of land does not have the defense that the dangerous condition is known or obvious to the business invitee (as the possessor of land has with a licensee). Even if the condition is known or obvious, the possessor of land has the duty to inspect and remove the dangerous condition. Thus, if upon inspection the possessor of land discovers a patch of black ice in the parking lot or on its sidewalk or a liquid spill in aisle 4, the possessor of land has the obligation to its business visitors to remove these dangerous conditions so that its business visitors will not slip and fall on the ice or liquid spill. The possessor of land cannot rely upon the belief that the patch of ice or liquid spill will become known or obvious to its business invitees.

If you or someone you know is injured due to a slip and fall or trip and fall on a business' sidewalk, walkway, parking lot, steps, floor, escalator, elevator, etc., you should contact a Philadelphia personal injury attorney with over 20 years experience to make sure that your case is handled properly and that you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries, medical expenses and lost wages.

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