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What duty is owed to an 'invitee' in California?

This blog has previously touched on the fact that property owners have some legal obligations to people who are present on their property with regard to ensuring their safety. That is, in some circumstances, an owner of real estate may be liable to pay compensation to people who suffer injuries while on the property owner's land. What kind of duty the owner has depends, in large part, upon into which category of visitor the injured person falls.

Readers may remember that the general categories of visitors on another's property are invitee, licensee, and trespasser. The most common type of visitor on California property is probably the invitee. This is because this category usually includes people who are present on a property for the owner's benefit, or the owner's and the visitor's mutual benefit. This might cover, for instance, people shopping at a store during regular business hours. As might be expected, a property owner owes an invitee the highest duty of care out of the general visitor categories.

Property owners who have invitees on their property need to not only fix things they know might be dangerous to visitors, but also to be reasonably aware and inspect the property for hazards which might not be known. In fact, when an invitee is injured, the property owner might be liable if he or she should reasonably have known about the condition that caused the injury, and had reasonable time to correct it, even if he or she didn't actually know of it. The owner might also be liable if agents of the property owner, such as employees of a retail store, should have known about and corrected the problem in a timely fashion.

Because a reasonableness standard is not a bright line test, the specific details of the situation may change the outcome in any given case. Thus, California residents who have been injured in a slip-and-fall or other accident while on someone else's property may wish to consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine what legal rights they may have.

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