Premises Liability in Alabama
In Alabama, as in many states, premises liability law (which governs slip and fall cases) categorizes visitors to a property into three main categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. The legal duty a property owner owes to a visitor varies based on the visitor’s classification.
Here’s an overview of these categories and what they entail:
Invitees, Licensees, Trespassers
- An invitee is someone who is invited onto the property for business dealings with the property owner or for the mutual benefit of both parties. Common examples include customers in a store or clients in an office.
- Duty Owed: The property owner owes invitees the highest duty of care. This means the owner must regularly inspect the property for dangerous conditions and either warn invitees about them or fix them. If the owner fails to do so and an invitee gets injured, the owner can be held liable.
- A licensee is someone who enters the property for their own purpose or as a social guest, and not for the financial benefit of the property owner. Friends or family members visiting someone’s home typically fall into this category.
- Duty Owed: The property owner has a duty to warn licensees of any known dangers on the property but does not have a duty to inspect for or fix unknown dangers. If a licensee is injured by a danger the owner knew about but didn’t warn them of, the owner could be held liable.
- A trespasser is someone who enters a property without the owner’s permission. They have no legal right to be on the property.
- Duty Owed: Generally, property owners owe no duty to trespassers, except to refrain from willfully or wantonly causing them harm. However, there’s an exception for child trespassers. If a property owner has something on their property that might attract children (like a swimming pool), they may be held liable if a child gets hurt, even if the child was trespassing. This is commonly referred to as the “attractive nuisance doctrine.
Understanding these categories is crucial when evaluating potential premises liability claims in Alabama, especially given the state’s strict contributory negligence rule. If someone is injured on another’s property, how they are categorized can significantly impact their ability to recover damages. If you or someone you know has been injured, it’s essential to consult with an Alabama personal injury attorney to understand the potential legal rights and remedies.