Premises Liability and Types of Visitors

Premises liability refers to holding the owner responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their premises. Some states focus on the type of visitor-owner relationship for determining owner responsibility for injuries that occur on their property.


An invitee is someone who was invited onto the property for the commercial benefit of the premises owner; for example, a customer in a store. In this case the property owner has a duty to protect invitees from harm and to warn of any potentially dangerous situations on their premises.

The property owner is responsible when:

  • The risk to invitees is unreasonable
  • The owner knows, or reasonably should have known, about the condition

A property owner may be required to inspect the premises regularly to ensure that a dangerous situation hasn’t been created, such as when something has been spilled on the floor that creates the danger of a slip and fall.

Social Guests or Licensees

A licensee is a person invited onto the premises for a reason that is not commercial. The property owner in this case is responsible for any injuries on their property when:

  • The owner knows, or reasonably should have known, about the condition
  • The owner did not try to make the condition safe
  • The owner did not warn the licensee of the risk created by the condition
  • The licensee did not know, or have reason to know, the condition existed


A trespasser is someone who enters the premises without an invitation. It is possible for the owner of the property to give notice of the possibility of injury when the owner knows it is likely that trespassers will enter the premises. This requirement applies to conditions that the owner knows to be likely to cause serious injury or death, and when the condition isn’t obvious.


When the owner knows that uninvited children are likely to be on the premises, the owner must give notice of dangerous conditions that are likely to cause serious injury or death. If there is a condition on the property that is dangerous, and artificial (not natural), but likely to attract children, the homeowner has a duty to eliminate the danger or otherwise reasonably protect the child. Examples of artificial conditions that are attractive to children are:

  • Vehicles
  • Trampolines
  • Swimming Pools

In determining responsibility of the owner of the premises, some states take the reason the guest is on the property into consideration. Invitees who are on the property for the commercial gain of the owner are afforded the most protection against slip and fall injuries, while trespassers are afforded the least.

This article is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an attorney in your local area for more information about premises liability law.

Additional Legal Pages: For more information about premise liabilities please visit Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA.

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