The owners of any business or private property owe visitors a duty of care. This duty means that they must actively protect visitors from dangers and other hazards that may cause injury. The duty of care that a property owner must observe depends on how the visitor is legally classified or categorized. These classes or categories are predominantly based on the visitor’s purpose on the property.
Visitors in Pennsylvania are divided into three classes while on the owner’s property: invitee, licensee, or trespasser. The lowest standard of care is owed to trespassers, while the highest standard of care is owed to invitees.
Pennsylvania law requires property owners to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and to either repair or warn of any dangerous conditions on the property that the owner either knows of or should know to exist when a visitor is an invitee.
Pennsylvania classifies an invitee as either a public invitee or a business visitor. A public invitee is a person invited to enter or remain on land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public. In contrast, a business visitor is a person invited to enter or remain on the land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of land. Although there are two types of invitees, the duty owed by a landowner or possessor is the same in both circumstances.
A licensee is a person who is privileged to enter or remain on the land by virtue of a land possessor’s consent. Property owners have a duty only to warn licensees of any concealed dangerous conditions on the property.
A trespasser is defined as “a person who enters or remains upon land in the possession of another without the privilege to do so created by the possessor’s consent or otherwise.” In Pennsylvania, a possessor is only liable to a trespasser for any injuries sustained on the premises if the possessor of land was guilty of wanton or willful negligence or misconduct.
Because trespassers are on property without consent, property owners owe trespassers virtually no duty to reasonably maintain or warn of dangers on the property. However, they must not intentionally cause harm to trespassers. Plaintiffs in premises liability cases must establish that they were either invitees or licensees to establish that the landowner owed them a duty when they were injured. Attorneys must have the ability and expertise to analyze all legal and technical issues of a premises liability case. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from any type of accident, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. Our attorneys, past and present, have represented victims for 115 years.