What Are Land Owners' and Tenants' Duties to Visitors?
Landowner or Tenant Duties
A landowner or tenant may be liable for injuries or harm suffered by persons on and off the land. This depends on the location where the person was injured and the status of the person.
Duty to Those off Premises
A landowner or tenant generally has no duty to protect those off the premises from natural conditions on the premises, such as naturally located trees, boulders and water. However, if the landowner or tenant altered the natural state of the land, for example, by diverting the natural flow of water or by planting trees, he may be liable if the alteration resulted in an unreasonably dangerous condition that harmed another on adjacent land. In urban areas, landowners and tenants are liable for damages caused off the premises by trees on the premises.
Duty to Those on Premises
The duty of care owed to a person on the premises depends on the status of the person in relation to the landowner or tenant.
- Invitees. Customers, vendors and others who enter the premises at the invitation of the landowner or tenant are considered invitees. A landowner or tenant has a duty to warn the invitee of known dangerous conditions, exercise reasonable care while conducting business on the premises, make reasonable inspections to discover nonobvious dangerous conditions and to make those conditions safe. For example, a business must make reasonable inspections for spills and clean them up.
- Licensees. Licensees are those who enter the premises with the landowner's or tenant's permission for the licensee's own purpose or business, rather than the landowner's or tenant's. A social guest is one example of a licensee. In contrast to invitees, the landowner or tenant owes no duty to the licensee to inspect or repair nonobvious dangerous conditions.
- Trespassers. For undiscovered trespassers, the landowner or tenant owes no duty at all. For discovered or anticipated trespassers, a landowner or tenant must warn or make safe concealed, unsafe, artificial conditions involving risk of death or serious bodily harm and exercise reasonable care while conducting business on the premises.
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