If you are injured on someone else’s property, the term most lawyers use is “premises liability.” Your rights after an injury on someone else’s property depend on how you came to be on their property in the first place.
The extent of the premises owner’s liability to you hangs on what you were doing on the property. Oklahoma law creates three classes of premises liability based on the type of duty the property owner owes to you, which is a function of your role on the property in the first place.
- Trespasser: The property owner owes the smallest duty to the trespasser, uninvited and in fact illegal on the land or in the building. To the trespasser, the property owner owes only the duty to avoid injuring him willfully or wantonly.
- Licensee: A licensee is someone whom the landowner has allowed to enter the property, but not invited, and who is not there for business purposes — e.g., friends who have an open invitation to visit or use the landowner’s property, partygoers, people who enter a store to ask for change or directions but not to buy anything, etc. To the licensee, the owner owes a duty to disclose the existence of dangerous defects known to the owner, but unlikely to be discovered by the licensee.
- Invitee: An invitee is anyone on the property because the owner invited them, and who falls into one of two categories — someone on the property to do business, or someone on the property because the property is public property, open to the public. A property owner owes the highest duty to an invitee, namely to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition for the invitee, not merely to warn the invitee of dangers or avoid laying traps for the invitee.
Tenants have traditionally qualified as invitees, because their presence on the landlord’s property is always for business purposes — to rent a house or apartment and pay for it — but Oklahoma only recently (in a 2009 case) upgraded tenants to invitee status, essentially requiring landlords to maintain premises in a safe condition.
Most people injured on another’s property fall somewhere in the licensee or invitee group. You should consult with a personal injury attorney who handles premises liability cases to determine whether you were an invitee or a licensee at the time of the injury, and whether your injury resulted from actionable negligence.