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Although a social guest normally is invited, and even urged to come, he is not an "invitee," within the legal meaning of that term. He does not come as a member of the public upon premises held open to the public for that purpose, and he does not enter for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor. The use of the premises is extended to him merely as a personal favor to him. The explanation usually given by the courts for the classification of social guests as licensees is that there is a common understanding that the guest is expected to take the premises as the possessor himself uses them, and does not expect and is not entitled to expect that they will be prepared for his reception, or that precautions will be taken for his safety, in any manner in which the possessor does not prepare or take precautions for his own safety, or that of the members of his family.
Plaintiffs, both adults, were spending the weekend as social guests at defendants' hilltop cottage overlooking the state park at Grand Haven, Michigan. Access to the cottage was by either a 113-step stairway or a lift consisting of a car which was raised or lowered along railed tracks by means of cables and electric winch. The lift was of the homemade variety, but the defendant husband repeatedly assured plaintiffs that it was safe. The parties entered the lift, and as the car was descending a shaft broke causing the car to crash to the bottom, injuring plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed an action alleging defendants were negligent in constructing, maintaining and operating the lift. The jury returned a verdict of no cause of action. Upon appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the trial judge did not properly instruct the jury as to the duty of a host to his guests, and reversed and remanded the cause for a new trial.
Is the duty owing by a host to an adult social guest the same as that owing to a business invitee?
The court reversed the court of appeals judgment and affirmed the trial court judgment, holding that the court of appeals erred in its premise that a social guest was classified as an invitee. The court held that although a social guest normally was invited, he was not an "invitee," within the legal meaning of that term. The court held that in Michigan a social guest was not an invitee, but a licensee, and that the trial court's charge to the jury fairly instructed them of the duty that a host owed to his social guest. The court rejected plaintiffs' arguments that the trial court erred in refusing to admit evidence of the state elevator code as negligence per se, or erred in permitting defendants to amend their pleadings as to contributory negligence.