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A premises liability claim can cover all manner of accidents that occur on someone else’s building, land, or other property. This could be an accident that occurs in a neighbor’s house, a restaurant, a hotel, or a government building, etc. There are also a number of laws at play in these cases. In order to understand these complex matters, there are three basic terms you need to understand. To learn more or discuss your case, call and schedule a consultation with a Raleigh premises liability lawyer today.


If someone is an invitee on someone else’s premises, then this is the category of person to which a premises owner owes the most duty of care. As the term sounds, an invitee is someone who was invited to the property by or for the owner. So while this obviously would refer to someone who has been invited to a business meeting, a customer at a supermarket is also an invitee, as the store owner has essentially invited the patron to profit the business.

What this means is that if someone is an invitee, the premises owner or occupier has the duty to keep the premises reasonably safe. This includes performing maintenance and repair work as needed. If an owner keeps their duty of reasonable care, and an invitee is injured nonetheless, the owner would be off the hook for damages. An owner or occupier is only liable if they violate their duty.


While a licensee still is owed a duty of reasonable care, it will be a different duty than for someone who was actually invited to the premises; it should be noted though that the term “licensee” actually includes relatives and people visiting for a party. A license is allowed on the property, but generally speaking, a licensee is present on the property because they want to be, while an invitee is present on property because an owner wants them to be. While a premises owner can be held liable for a licensee’s injuries, this would probably only be the case if they did not caution the licensee about hazards the licensee would not have known about on their own, that is, that a licensee was hurt by a danger that was not obvious.


A property owner or occupier owes no duty of care toward someone who is on the premises illegally. The owner merely cannot inflict purposeful injury on a trespasser unless it is in self-defense. However, the rules change when it comes to a child trespasser. Basically, if a property owner has an object or hazard that would attract a child to play with it, and they are harmed, the owner could be liable under the strangely named “attractive nuisance doctrine“. When and how this doctrine is used is fairly unreliable though, often entirely in the discretion of a given court.

Importance of An Attorney

Even with these categories, premises liability claims can become further complicated because the same person could change categories while on the property. For example, at a garage sale, people in the front yard looking to buy things from the sale would be an invitee.

If the owner has not allowed these patrons into their home, however, and one of them goes into the house, the invitee has become a trespasser. So while the patron might be able to sue if they fractured an ankle in a pot hole, this same person would not be able to sue as a trespasser who injured themselves on a broken tile in the house.

Imagine how much more complicated this scenario would be if a patron was given permission by the owner to use the bathroom, and this person gets injured on the way. Liability in this case would depend on whether or not the patron was an invitee or licensee, how obvious the hazard was, and more.

If you think you might have a premises liability case, then contact the Whitley Law Firm. A Raleigh personal injury lawyer from our firm can tell you how strong your case is, and can provide the outstanding representation you need for such a complex case. Call our firm today!