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A person who visits a landowner's property with the landowner's consent or as the landowner's guest but with no business purpose occupies the status of a licensee. An invited social guest is a licensee of the landowner. The duty owed by a landowner to a licensee is to abstain from willfully or wantonly injuring the licensee and to avoid negligently injuring the licensee after the landowner discovers a danger to the licensee. This duty is not an active one to safely maintain the premises; instead, the landowner has the duty not to set traps or pitfalls and not to willfully or wantonly injure the licensee. A "trap" is a danger that a person who does not know the premises could not avoid by the use of reasonable care. Wantonness has been defined as the conscious doing of some act or conscious omission of some duty by one who has knowledge of the existing conditions and who is conscious that doing, or failing to do, some act will probably result in injury. Courts have held that a person attending a church service is a licensee on the church premises.
Minnie Hambright was injured when she slipped and fell while attending services at First Baptist Church-Eastwood in Jacksonville, Alabama. She and her husband, Frank Hambright, sued the church, alleging negligence, wantonness, and loss of consortium. The trial court entered a summary judgment for the church on all claims.
Did Mrs. Hambright hold the legal status of a licensee while visiting the church?
The court found that Mrs. Hambright was a licensee at the time of the accident because she was in the same position as a social guest enjoying unrecompensed hospitality in a private home by invitation. The court noted Mrs. Hambright’s attendance at a church anniversary service was not considered to be providing a material benefit to the church under the circumstances presented in the case. The court held that summary judgment was properly granted where plaintiffs failed to produce substantial evidence the church willfully or wantonly injured the church member or that the church was negligent after learning of the church member's peril.