The Concept of Notice in Premises Liability

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Premises liability is a difficult area of law to understand. One of the more complex ideas associated with premises liability is the idea of notice, and what exactly is owed to people on the premises, which ultimately depends on why they are there. This can be crucial to winning a claim, so it is important to understand how specific this kind of law can be.

Categories of Visitors

In South Carolina, visitors to another person’s property are grouped into four categories, as is similar to the case under common law. They are:

  • Adult invitee. The South Carolina courts define this status as a person who “enters onto the property of another by express or implied invitation,” and their entry is usually connected with the owner’s business or some activity the owner allows to happen on their land. There is a benefit to both the owner and invitee.
  • Adult licensee. The duty of an owner is far less to a licensee than it is to an invitee. South Carolina defines a licensee as someone who is permitted to be on the owner’s land by virtue of the owner’s consent and/or sufferance. The most common example of this category is a social guest – someone who has been invited onto the property specifically.
  • Adult trespasser. This status is fairly self-explanatory. A trespasser in South Carolina is someone who enters an owner’s land without permission.
  • Child trespassers. If children come onto property with permission, they are classified as invitees or licensees. If they are trespassing, however, they are still owed a duty by the landowner. Children are differentiated because they are held to lack capacity to make certain decisions, and thus may not appreciate the gravity of their actions.

The duty of a property owner remains the same in all cases: to ensure that a proper level of care is taken to keep the property reasonably safe for those who enter. However, the level of care required by law differs, depending what status a person has.

For example, an owner has a duty to an invitee that includes an exercise of reasonable care to make the land safe. However, they also must warn an invitee of any potential risks that they know of or should know of. That duty only applies to an invitee. Licensees must be protected by the owner, who has a duty to avoid from willful or wanton injury to them, but that is all. A property owner must not willfully injure a trespasser, but that is the only protection afforded to them.

Child Trespassers

While the duty of care owed to an adult depends almost entirely on their reason for being on the property, the reality is slightly different for children. Child trespassers can still hold a landowner liable for their injuries under the doctrine of attractive nuisance if the landowner does not properly warn of any dangers on the property. An attractive nuisance may lure children onto the property without their being apprised of the danger – in the past, disused construction sites or empty swimming pools have qualified as attractive nuisances, especially when no warning of any kind is posted.

Contact A Premises Liability Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a failure of warning, we can help. The attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse know the law around this complex issue, and we can put our knowledge to work for you. Contact our North Charleston office today for a consultation.