Law School Case Brief
Leffler v. Sharp - 891 So. 2d 152 (Miss. 2004)
Mississippi applies a three-step process to determine premises liability. The first step consists of classifying the status of the injured person as an invitee, licensee, or a trespasser. Following this identification, the duty which is owed to the injured party is determined. The third step is to determine whether this duty is breached by the landowner or business operator. The determination of which status a particular plaintiff holds can be a jury question, but where the facts are not in dispute the classification becomes a question of law for the trial judge.
A patron sued a company which owned the subject building and the business owner (collectively the premises owner) for damages for injuries he received when he fell through the roof of the premises. The subject premises was a two story building with a lounge on the upper floor. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment for the premises owner upon finding that the patron's status upon entering the roof was that of a trespasser at the time the injury occurred. On appeal, the patron maintained that he remained an invitee at the time of his injury because the premises owner held the roof out as a part of the premises by allowing patrons to enter and use the rooftop terrace. However, the testimony established that access to the rooftop terrace had been closed because of known safety issues and that the patron climbed through a 24 inch by 32 inch window to get to the roof. His intent was to briefly escape the heat in the lounge.
Was a lounge patron a trespasser at the time of his accident because he had climbed out a small window to access a previously-used rooftop terrace?
The appellate court held that once the patron entered onto the roof terrace, he went "beyond the bounds of his invitation," and therefore lost his invitee status. He also lacked permission to enter the roof terrace. Thus, he did not enjoy the status of a licensee. His status at the time of the incident was that of a trespasser. Therefore, the premises owner had no duty to keep the roof in a safe condition, and the trial court correctly granted summary judgment dismissing the patron's claims.
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