Welcome Invitee Or Trespasser: Which One Were You When You Were Injured?
When we are injured on someone else’s property, we often just ask whether the property owner is negligent—that is, whether the property did or didn’t do something that it should have. It’s easy to forget another question: Who are you? In other words, what is your relationship to the property owner? Because that can make a big difference in whether you win or lose your case.
Often, you are on a business’ property as an invitee; the business is “inviting” you onto their property to shop or buy things or do business. Of course, you don’t need to be personally invited; you are invited so long as the store is open for business and to the public and you are there to conduct business, buy something, etc.
If you are on a property without permission, you are a trespasser. A property owner generally doesn’t owe you any duty of protection as a trespasser, except to avoid purposely or knowingly injuring you, or failing to warn of known dangerous conditions on the property. Needless to say, it is harder to sue a business if you are a trespasser on the business’ property, than if you are an invitee.
But the law is not always that simple. For example, let’s assume you run into a business or store to get out of the rain. Or, you go into a restaurant just to use their bathroom. In neither case are you actually invited into the property to do those things, given you aren’t a customer. These businesses are not public shelters or restrooms.
However, the door isn’t locked, and nobody is kicking you out; the business may even know people do this, and they may tolerate it to some extent.
When this happens, if you are injured while on someone’s property, the property owner will often try to argue you are just trespassing, when in fact, you are more likely what is called an uninvited licensee.
Even trespassing can get more complex than it seems, because you can be a known trespasser. For example, let’s say that a business knows that people walk across its parking lot to access a breach or another facility. Those people are technically trespassing, but the business doesn’t care.
This sometimes happens when kids skateboard on business property. The business knows about it, but may not bother to do anything. These are now, potentially, known trespassers, and the business may owe any known trespasser a higher duty of care than it would owe just a common trespasser.
Going From One to the Other
Making matters more complex, you can start as an invitee and become a trespasser. For example, if you are in a store, you are an invitee. But in that store, should you venture to the back storage area, or an employee lounge, or some other place you aren’t allowed to be, you now have gone from an invitee to a trespasser.
Contact Barbas Nunez Sanders Butler & today if you are injured on someone else’s property. Reach out to our Tampa personal injury lawyers for a consultation.