Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The United States District Court, in applying South Carolina law, has set forth the duty a landowner owes to a social guest. A social guest is a licensee. A licensee is a person who is privileged to enter upon land by virtue of the possessor's consent. The possessor is under no obligation to exercise care to make the premises safe for his reception, and is under no duty toward him except: (a) To use reasonable care to discover him and avoid injury to him in carrying on activities upon the land; (b) To use reasonable care to warn him of any concealed dangerous conditions or activities which are known to the possessor, or of any change in the condition of the premises which may be dangerous to him, and which he may reasonably be expected to discover.
Appellant Mary Frances Byrum agreed to let her niece and nephew have a surprise party for their father at her house. Respondent, Dorothy Neil, one of the guests at the party, fell from the top of the back steps. The brick steps were approximately three and a half feet high and did not have a barrier or railing on either side. Respondent instituted a complaint against appellant. Appellant moved for a directed verdict, but the motion was denied, and the jury returned a $25,000 verdict for the respondent. Appellant challenged the decision.
Could the appellant be held liable for the injury sustained by the respondent while attending a party in the appellant’s house?
On appeal, the Court noted that it had to uphold the verdict if there was any evidence which reasonably supported the verdict. Additionally, the evidence had to be viewed in a light most favorable to the guest in the homeowner's motion for a directed verdict. In this case, the Court found that no duty of care existed between appellant and the respondent because the latter was a licensee. Appellant only had to warn of concealed dangers, and the lack of a railing on the back steps was not a concealed danger. According to the Court, respondent knew that there was no railing. Since a licensee cannot recover for an injury caused by known dangers or risks inherent to a place, the Court reversed the denial of the motion for a directed verdict, finding no evidence to reasonably support the conclusion that the homeowner was negligent.