Harper v. Herman

499 N.W.2d 472 (Minn. 1993)



Generally, a special relationship giving rise to a duty to warn is only found on the part of common carriers, innkeepers, possessors of land who hold it open to the public, and persons who have custody of another person under circumstances in which that other person is deprived of normal opportunities of self-protection.


The guest was injured when he dove off the owner's boat into shallow water. The guest filed a personal injury action against the owner of the boat, claiming that the owner negligently failed to warn him about the shallow water. The owner filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion. But the appellate court reversed the trial court's order. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota.


Should the boat owner be liable for the injuries sustained by his guest?




The court held that an affirmative duty to act arises only when a special relationship existed between the parties. The court, however, determined that no special relationship existed between the owner and the guest. Thus, the owner had no duty to warn the guest about the shallow water. The court ruled that the owner's actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, in the absence of a duty to provide protection, was insufficient to establish liability in negligence. The court held that the guest had no reasonable expectation to look to the owner for protection, and the owner had no duty to warn the guest that the water was shallow.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.