This is another in my continuing series of blogs about California personal injury cases that set precedents and established law across the U.S. Today, I discuss the seminal California Supreme Court premises liability case of Rowland v. Christian 69 Cal.2d 108 .
Traditional “Common Law” Categories of People Coming Onto Land And The Duty of the Landlord to Those Entrants
American Tort Law has always required landowners or lessees to protect people coming onto their property to some degree or another. If a person is injured while on the property of another, the law has required that the injured person be compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income and other damages if it can be shown that the property owner was negligent. American jurisdictions, however, have sought to balance the interests of landowners with the rights of persons injured upon their property. Traditionally, under the so-called “common law” that developed in the U.S. from the original English law, all states put persons coming onto property who sustained injury into one of three categories: Licensees, Invitees and Trespassers. Invitees were persons invited onto the property to “do business” and there with the owner’s consent such as patrons of retail establishments. Licensees were persons on the property with the permission of the landowner but, for their own purpose such as a repairman or even a social guest and, trespassers were people who had entered the property with no express or implied permission. The law required a property owner to safeguard the well being of invitees by making the property safe for their use. Therefore, landowners were charged with the highest duty of protection for invitees. With regard to licensees, landowners or occupiers were required to only protect and warn regarding known dangerous conditions on the property. Trespassers were afforded the least protection and the landowner was only rarely liable for “intentional, willful or wanton” conduct on his or her part which caused injury to the person there without permission.