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Law School Case Brief

Holzheimer v. Johannesen - 125 Idaho 397, 871 P.2d 814 (1994)


The duty of owners and possessors of land is determined by the status of the person injured on the land (i.e., whether the person is a invitee, licensee or trespasser.) An invitee is one who enters upon the premises of another for a purpose connected with the business conducted on the land, or where it can reasonably be said that the visit may confer a business, commercial, monetary or other tangible benefit to the landowner. A landowner owes an invitee the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition, or to warn of hidden or concealed dangers. A licensee is a visitor who goes upon the premises of another with the consent of the landowner in pursuit of the visitor's purpose. Likewise, a social guest is also a licensee. The duty owed to a licensee is narrow. A landowner is only required to share with the licensee knowledge of dangerous conditions or activities on the land. Additionally, the fact that a guest may be rendering a minor, incidental service to the host does not change the relationship between them as a landowner and a licensee.


Plaintiff orchard owner appealed from the decision of the District Court of the Third Judicial District (Idaho), which entered judgment for defendant orchard owner in plaintiff's action for personal injuries he suffered after he fell from a stack of boxes in defendant's warehouse. The evidence at trial showed that the parties routinely loaned one another packing boxes, and that defendant had told plaintiff that he could retrieve them himself when needed. Defendant claimed that plaintiff was a licensee and entitled to a lower standard of care, and the trial court submitted the issue to the jury, with instructions on both licensee and invitee status. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant, and plaintiff appealed, claiming that it was error to instruct the jury on licensee status.


Did the district court err when it instructed the jury on Holzheimer's status both as an invitee and as a licensee?




The court affirmed. The court held that it was proper to submit both instructions to the jury because there was evidence that plaintiff was purchasing or borrowing fruit boxes from defendant, but there was also evidence that the borrowing was customary between the parties, and was not in exchange for payment; therefore it was proper to allow the jury to weigh all of the evidence to determine whether the status was that of a licensee or rose to that of an invitee. The court also held that although it was error to not allow past fruit sales invoices to be admitted, it was harmless error because there was other evidence tending to prove the same.

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