Duty Owed by Possessor of Land to the Public
In Pennsylvania, the purpose for which a person enters onto another’s property will dictate the duty which the possessor of the land owes to that person and that person’s legal rights for any injuries suffered while they are on that property.
Trespasser: If you enter another’s property without permission, you are considered a trespasser. If you are a trespasser, the possessor of the property owes you only a minimum duty to ensure that the property is safe. If you are the owner of a property, you can deter trespassing by installing a surveillance system onto your property. You may want to view some home security cameras reviews to hep you get started.
Licensee: If you enter another’s property for your own purposes with permission from the possessor of the property, you are considered a licensee. A licensee enters another’s property not for social or for business purposes, but for their own purposes, for example, when you walk on someone else’s sidewalk while en route to another location. The owner or possessor of the property (the sidewalk) owes persons walking on their property a heightened duty of care to ensure their safety, as compared to a person who is considered a trespasser, because they had permission to enter that property. However, because the person who entered the land (walked along the sidewalk) was only there for their own purposes and not for purposes relating to activity which is occurring on the property, such as a business, the duty owed by the possessor of the property is not absolute.
Invitee: If you enter another’s property for reasons which are related to activity which is conducted on the property, you are considered an invitee. For example, if you enter another’s property for which a business is being conducted on, you are considered a “business invitee” and the owner or possessor of that property owes you the highest duty of care to ensure your safety. That duty extends to all areas of the property relating to the business, including the parking lot and inside the actual business. As a result of the fact that you were “invited” to enter the property for reasons related to activity conducted on the property (shopping at a store), the owner or possessor of the property must take all steps necessary to ensure your safety, including taking steps to not only fix unsafe conditions of the premises but also to take reasonable steps to learn about unsafe conditions of the premises as to avoid any harm to their customers. The most critical difference between the rights owed to an invitee as compared to a licensee is the requirement that the possessor of the property conduct necessary inspections to prevent unsafe conditions before they occur, as the invitee may reasonably rely on the fact that the possessor of the property took all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of others. This includes making sure that a parking lot is free and clear of snow and ice, making sure all entrances and exits are free and clear of any obstructions, and inspecting and maintaining the walkways inside the premises to make sure there are no hazards which could cause someone to slip or trip.
By: Jordan Schlossberg