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A landowner owes the same duty of care to a licensee as to an invitee. The standard of "reasonable care in all the circumstances" will better reflect the common expectation of the duty of care owed by landowners and occupiers to all lawful entrants. An entrant's status, no longer controlling, is simply one element, among many, to be considered in determining the landowner's liability under ordinary standards of negligence.
Plaintiff Rodney Demag appealed a summary judgment decision of the superior court against him in this personal injury case. Consistent with the current negligence law, the trial court found that Demag was a licensee of defendant, Better Power Equipment, Inc. (BPE), rather than an invitee. It then concluded that Demag was entitled to a lesser standard of care from BPE, which allowed for summary judgment against him.
Was Demag, being a licensee of BPE, entitled to a lesser standard of care from the latter?
The court abolished Vermont's common-law negligence distinction between licensees and invitees to hold that a landowner owed the same duty of care, "reasonable care in all the circumstances," to all lawful entrants. Under this new standard, Demag, who regularly parked in the parking space belonging to BPE’s general manager when taking the manager's car to Demag’s employer to be serviced, had raised a genuine question of material fact for the jury regarding the foreseeability to BPE of Demag suffering harm from an open storm drain in BPE’s parking lot.