Unlike other states in the country, Kentucky has maintained a distinction between trespassers, licensee and invitees in premises liability cases. It is important therefore for Kentucky residents, particularly those who have been hurt while on the business property or at another person’s residence, to be aware of what these terms mean, as they each imply a different type of responsibility a landowner has to keep his or her property safe.
Should someone get hurt while on another’s property, it is best for them when a court considers them an invitee. As the name implies, an invitee includes someone who comes on to a person’s property by invitation of the landowner. However, it is important to note that an invitation can be implied under the circumstances.
For instance, a store that opens its doors for business makes every customer an invitee, even though the owner obviously did not personally invite every customer in to the store. When welcoming invitees, a landowner has an obligation not only to take care of known hazards on the property but also to check for hidden safety issues and, more generally, take affirmative steps to keep invitees safe.
A licensee, on the other hand, has permission to come on to the land of another person, but his or her presence is merely being tolerated by the landowner. One relatively recent example of a “licensee” from an actual court case was a plumber who had to enter the property of another business not to repair that business’s pipe but the pipe of a neighboring establishment. A business owner need only take care of any open obvious hazards on his or her property when it comes to licenses.
Finally, a landowner owes little responsibility to a trespasser, or someone who does not have permission of any kind to be on the property. A landowner is only responsible for a trespasser’s injuries in very limited circumstances. Generally speaking, a landowner has to avoid trying to harm a trespasser but has no responsibility for protecting him or her either.