Cochran v. Burger King Corp.

937 S.W.2d 358 (Mo. Ct. App. 1996)



All entrants to land are trespassers until the possessor of the land gives them permission to enter. All persons who enter a premises with permission are licensees until the possessor has an interest in the visit such that the visitor has reason to believe that the premises have been made safe to receive him. That makes the visitor an invitee. 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.


An individual seeking to go to a fast food restaurant which was open, crossed through the parking lot of a restaurant which was closed. It was late at night. On a second trip through the parking lot, the individual decided to see if there was any food in the dumpster of the closed restaurant. He jumped on the wall surrounding the dumpster and it fell, causing him severe injuries. A lawsuit was filed against the corporation which owned the restaurant and after hearing that the manager of the restaurant knew of the weakened condition of the wall, a jury found in favor of the injured party. The trial court denied the corporation's motion for directed verdict and the corporation appealed.


Is the corporation liable for the weak condition of its wall to a trespasser who climbed it?




The court held that although the injured party was a licensee on the premises, despite the fact that it was closed, he became a trespasser when he deviated from the original purpose of coming onto the property and attempted to climb the wall. The corporation was not required to anticipate that a person would try to climb the wall and therefore owned no duty to the injured party. The motion for directed verdict should have been granted.

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