Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser? A Look at Premises Liability in Texas

Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser? A Look at Premises Liability in Texas Business owners, hotel owners, and homeowners can be held accountable when a person is injured while on their property. However, it is important to know that not every injury case results in a property owner being liable, as there are several factors that must be taken into account when determining this. One of the first factors is why the victim was on the property in the first place.

At the Law Offices of Pat Maloney, we know how challenging it is to suffer an injury on someone else’s property. However, determining liability for the incident that left you injured might not be cut and dry. That is why our in-depth understanding of premises liability law in Texas can benefit you.

What is premises liability?

Premises liability is a legal term. It means that the owner/operator of a premises (like a retail store, an office building, or even your neighbor’s home) can be held responsible, or “liable,” for the injuries you sustain, depending on the circumstances.

Some examples of common premises liability claims include:

  • Dog or animal bites
  • Slip and falls
  • Physical or sexual assaults
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Elevator accidents

In order to make a claim, however, a victim must legally be allowed on that property.

What is an invitee?

An invitee is an individual who was invited to be on the property by the owner. Examples of invitees can be a client attending a scheduled meeting at a business, or a tourist who is staying at a local hotel. Both examples are considered invitees because the individuals were expected to be on the person’s property.

What is a licensee?

When a friend or family member visits someone’s home or office for their own benefit, they are considered a licensee. When a sales person comes calling at a local retailer or a neighbor comes by to chat, that visitor is a licensee: not expressly invited, but welcome all the same.

What is a trespasser?

A trespasser is on another person’s property without their permission. This means that the property owner does not know this person is on their property, and if they do, they did not invite them or expect them to be there.

When is a San Antonio property owner liable for injuries?

Even if the injured person fits the definition of invitee, it does not mean that the property owner is automatically liable. Under Texas Law:

If an owner, lessee, [occupant of agricultural land] or occupant of real property other than agricultural land gives permission to another to enter the premises for recreation, the owner, lessee, or occupant, by giving the permission, does not

  1. assure that the premises are safe for that purpose;
  2. owe to the person to whom permission is granted a greater degree of care than is owed to a trespasser on the premises; or
  3. assume responsibility or incur liability for any injury to any individual or property caused by any act of the person to whom permission is granted.

Liability hinges, to some extent, or foreseeability (how likely is it that a person could be injured) and whatever steps were taken to remedy the situation.

For example, if you walk into a restaurant and there’s a “Wet Floor” sign up, you  – as an invitee – have been warned that the floor is wet, and that there is a risk you could fall. If you ignore the sign and slip, then the restaurant would not be liable.

But sometimes, it’s not as obvious. Say that same restaurant has its restrooms downstairs, and while you are walking to the restroom, the handrail comes loose and you trip and fall. In this case, the restaurant should be liable.

If the person trespassed, however, “An owner, lessee, or occupant of agricultural land:

  1.  does not owe a duty of care to a trespasser on the land; and
  2.  is not liable for any injury to a trespasser on the land, except for willful or wanton acts or gross negligence by the owner, lessee, or other occupant of agricultural land.”

The “attractive nuisance” doctrine

There is one exception to the laws regarding trespassing on private property, and it applies to children. The “attractive nuisance” doctrine essentially says that if you have something on your property that would attract a child – a swimming pool, a trampoline, maybe a particularly fluffy dog – that you can be held liable if that child is injured. Children, after all, don’t recognize the concept of trespassing; they just see a bright blue pool on a hot day. (This is why Texas law requires that swimming pools have fences.)

But even these cases can be a challenge to litigate. This is why you want an experienced San Antonio premises liability lawyer on your side if you or your child is injured on someone else’s property.

How can you prove a San Antonio property owner is liable for your injuries?

To be successful in a premises liability claim, you must prove:

  • The owner of the property owed a duty of care to the victim. In most premises liability cases, the duty of care is to keep individuals visiting or expected to be on the property safe at all times.
  • The owner of the property breached their duty. If there is anything dangerous or defective on the property that the owner should (reasonably) have known about, it is the property owner’s responsibility to provide warning, or to fix the issue.
  • The breach caused the accident. Since the property owner did not provide sufficient warning or make repairs, an accident occurred on their property.
  • The victim suffered damages. The victim suffered injuries directly because the owner did not keep their property maintained and safe.

When it comes to trespassers, the only duty owed is to not cause injury deliberately, willfully, or through gross negligence. Therefore, if you were trespassing and an individual intentionally hurt you, you can file a claim for your injuries.

If you suffered an injury on another person’s property, reach out to Pat Maloney: Accident & Injury Attorney at your earliest convenience, and schedule your free consultation with an experienced San Antonio premises liability lawyer. We have the experience and skills to help you determine if you are an invitee, licensee, or trespasser as well as to guide you through every step of the legal process. Call our office or submit our contact form today.