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Under South Carolina jurisprudence, a landowner owes a licensee a duty to use reasonable care to discover the licensee, to conduct activities on the land so as not to harm the licensee, and to warn the licensee of any concealed dangerous conditions or activities. The duty owed to a licensee differs from the duty owed to an invitee in that the landowner has no duty to search out and discover dangers or defects in the land or to otherwise make the premises safe for a licensee. The owner or possessor of land 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. Since a licensee is there for his own benefit, he can be said to accept the premises as they are and demand no greater safety than his host provides himself.
Roger Singleton rescued a raccoon, which his sister, Julie Underwood, agreed to take. The raccoon escaped for a night and reappeared in a “disheveled” state. When Underwood attempted to calm the animal, it bit her arm, severing an artery and median nerve. While at the hospital, Underwood asked her father to let the raccoon out of her house. The father called Roger, who then went to Underwood’s house. Despite his father’s warning, Singleton confronted the raccoon and attempted to soothe it. The raccoon attacked and bit Singleton. Subsequently, Singleton filed a complaint against Underwood for the injuries he sustained from the raccoon bite while on the former’s property. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Underwood, holding that Singleton’s status on the property at the time of the incident was “at best” a social guest or licensee and the duty owed to a licensee was much less than the duty owed to an invitee. According to the Court, the true cause of Singleton's injury was his voluntarily exposure to a known risk. Singleton filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, challenging both the trial court's ruling regarding his "licensee" status and the trial court's application of the assumption of risk defense. Singleton's motion was denied.
The appellate court determined that defendants were properly granted summary judgment as to Singleton’s negligence claim. According to the court, Singleton was a licensee, rather than an invitee, because he voluntarily entered the premises in an effort to capture the raccoon regardless of specific instructions to the contrary. Because Singleton was a licensee, Underwood owed him no duty greater than the duty she owed to herself. Also, Underwood had no duty to warn her brother of the known and obvious danger posed by the raccoon, because he was aware that it had bitten her. The court averred that Singleton failed to prove any negligent act or omission attributable to his sister as the proximate cause of his injury. Furthermore, Singleton’s claim was barred under the assumption of risk doctrine because he was more than 50% at fault in causing his injuries. The raccoon was a wild animal.