Most people associate premises liability claims with slip and fall injuries or other injury resulting from an accident on the premises of a property owner. But premises liability can also be based upon intentional actions that caused a person or multiple individual injuries on the property.
When a crime occurs, property owners can be held responsible for actions that enabled the crime to occur or for injuries that were sustained. Crime victims are often able to gain compensation for their injuries when a criminal commits acts against them causing injury on another person’s property, as long as the plaintiff is able to show the elements of the case substantiating the owner’s responsibility. Damages may include compensation for medical costs, lost wages, emotional distress or pain and suffering.
--- Plaintiff Status in Premises Liability Cases --- In most states, status of the plaintiff determines the type of care that the property owner must exhibit when guests are on their premises. There are three categories of guests, each providing a different degree of care. Those three are trespasser, licensee and invitee.
- Trespasser The trespasser is a person who enters the property without the right to be there, also without the property owner’s consent. The nature of the trespasser’s presence establishes the lowest duty of care owed by the property owner to the person. Some court cases have established that trespassers injured during a third-party crime cannot hold the property owner responsible because the trespasser is not legally present on the property, in the first place.
Land and property owners only owe trespassers safety from intentional harm. There can be no purposeful traps or other devices to hurt these illegal guests. But if a trespasser is known to be present and the property owner does not act to resolve the continued trespassing, the individual’s status may become that of a licensee, the next level of guest.
- Licensee A licensee is a person with legal right for presence on a property. Licensees often have the owner’s consent for their presence. The guest may be a social visitor or, in some jurisdictions, categorized as either an invited licensee or uninvited licensee. There is usually a purpose for the individual being on the premises, with the property owner obligated to warn them against known dangers that can cause injury. Licensees are not allowed by some jurisdictions to submit third party claims if they are injured due to the criminal acts of someone not under the control of the property owner.
- Invitee Invitees are those who are invited by the property owner to be present on the property. Invitees may be customers of a store on the property. There are often subcategories of invitees, such as business invitees who have a legitimate commercial purpose for being on the property. Or the person may be a public invitee, someone who is on the property in pursuit of services or reasons offered by the property owner to the public. Because the owner benefits from these individuals’ presence on their property, owners are obligated by the highest duty of care for invitees.
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