The possessor's intention in offering the invitation determines the status of the visitor and establishes the duty of care the possessor owes the visitor. Generally, the possessor owes a trespasser no duty of care, the possessor owes a licensee the duty to make safe dangers of which the possessor is aware, and the possessor owes invitees the duty to exercise reasonable care to protect them against both known dangers and those that would be revealed by inspection.
Appellant visitor signed up at church for a home Bible study. When he arrived for the study at the homeowners' residence, he slipped on a patch of ice and broke his leg. The trial court rejected appellant's argument that he was an invitee and that the homeowners had a duty to inspect the premises for danger. The trial court sustained the homeowners' motion for summary judgment. Following an appeal to the lower appellate court, the case was transferred to the Supreme Court, which affirmed judgment of the trial court.
Did the homeowner's owe a duty of care to appellant as a visitor or invitee?
The homeowners' intention in offering their invitation to the Bible study determined the status of the visitor and established the duty of care the homeowners owed him. Because the visitor did not enter the premises to afford the homeowners any material benefit, he was not an invitee. The homeowners did not throw open their premises to the public in such a way as would imply a warranty of safety. They took no steps to encourage general attendance at the Bible study by some undefined portion of the public, but invited only church members who signed up at church. They did nothing more than give permission to a limited class of persons to enter their property. The court refused to abolish the distinction between licensees and invitees.