Premises Liability And Defects In Residential Premises: Duty Of Care To Invitee And Licensee

April 18, 2018
On behalf of The Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg Posted in Premises Liability

California’s premises liability law recognizes two entrant statuses to which the owner or occupier of residential premises owes a duty of care: invitee and licensee. While an injured party can also be a trespasser, to whom the homeowner owes no duty of care due to the fact that the trespasser had no permission or lawful right to be on the premises in the first place, let’s focus on the invitee and licensee.

If you have been injured on someone else’s property and it was on residential premises, you may be confused about your entrant status. As you may know, determining your entrant status is a crucial part of establishing liability to recover damages, Riverside premises liability attorney Howard Craig Kornberg says.

Determining entrant status: Who are an invitee and licensee?

In short, an invitee is a person who would not normally be on the residential property but was invited or induced by the possessor of the property to enter the premises for any lawful purpose. A licensee, meanwhile, is a person who does not necessarily have to have a contractual relationship with the property owner but is permitted to be on the premises (for example, a social guest).

Whether the person who enters residential premises is an invitee or licensee, the homeowner owes a duty of care to each of them. However, the degree of care owed differs from one entrant status to another.

What duty of care does the homeowner owe to the invitee and licensee?

The duty of care owed by a homeowner is maintaining the state of the premises in a reasonable manner, eliminating hazardous or dangerous conditions, and ensuring a safe environment.

  • Duties owed to an invitee: The owner or occupier of residential premises owes an invitee a duty to reasonably inspect and maintain the premises in order to make the premises safe and eliminate hazardous or dangerous conditions or situations. On top of that, the homeowner has the legal duty to warn an invitee of any danger or risk that the invitee may not be reasonably expected to discover without prior warning.
  • Duties owed to a licensee: A licensee must take the residential property as he or she finds it. If a licensee has been injured on residential premises, he/she must present evidence that (1) the owner or occupier was or should have been aware of the dangerous condition, and (2) the licensee himself/herself had no knowledge of the dangerous condition and could not be reasonable expected to discover it without prior warning.

By contrast, in order to hold a possessor of residential premises liable for his or her injuries, an invitee would only need to prove that the homeowner was aware or should have been aware of the dangerous condition, while his/her own knowledge of the condition is of no relevance.

How to determine liability in a premises liability case?

Our Riverside premises liability attorney at the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg explains that in order to hold a property owner liable for your injuries and damages arising from a slip and fall accident or any other accident, you must prove that the homeowner:

  • Knew about or by taking reasonable precautions should have discovered a dangerous condition that resulted in the accident;
  • Realized or should have realized that the condition created a risk of harm to visitors;
  • Failed to exercise reasonable and ordinary care to maintain the premises and prevent any foreseeable accidents or harm.

Do note, however, that the homeowner will most likely not be held liable for an invitee’s injuries if the risk of physical harm from the activity or condition that caused physical harm was known or obvious to the invitee – unless the owner or occupier of the premises knew of additional risks or harm beyond that knowledge or obviousness.

As you may have noticed by now, legalese is not the easiest language to understand, while California premises liability laws can be quite complicated when you have no law degree. That is why it is highly advised to be represented by a premises liability lawyer in order to obtain compensation for your injuries, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and other damages.

Contact the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg to get a free consultation about your case. Call our Riverside offices at 310-997-0904 or complete this contact form.


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