In many states, the rules that determine whether a property owner is liable for a slip and fall accident or premises liability injury are influenced by the purpose for which the injured person is present on the property. In Alabama, a visitor to property might be legally characterized as an “invitee,” a “licensee,” or a “trespasser.”
An invitee is one whose purpose involves a material benefit to the property owner. A typical example would be a customer in a store. Another example may be a neighbor who assists someone in trimming shrubbery on his or her property. A licensee is one who is on property with permission, but who does not provide a material benefit to the owner, such as a social guest. Of course, a trespasser is someone on property without permission.
Generally, an owner who is negligent in permitting or creating a dangerous condition on property, causing injury to the visitor, is liable, such as where a grocery store fails to clean up a slippery condition in a store aisle. The law requires a stronger showing where a licensee sues a landowner, generally that the landowner acts wantonly or recklessly, or creating hidden dangers through “active negligence.” Similarly, there are stricter standards applicable to injured person who falls into the category of a trespasser.
The rules are more lenient, however, when the trespasser is a child, and where the circumstances indicate the owner was aware the children’s presence on the property would be likely.
In summary, details can make a lot of difference in how successful this type of case can be. It is also important to be aware that the law can be different from state to state, depending upon these details.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.