Classifying Your Guests

The classification of your guest is very important for a very specific business attorney Tulsa legal reason. The legal classification of your guest dictates what your legal duty, i.e., your responsibility is to them.

If you are a store that sells directly to consumers, then it will be important to have a business attorney Tulsa explain so that you understand your responsibilities to avoid liability and exposure.

There are generally three types of guests from the general public that can enter your premises: an invitee, a licensee, and a trespasser. An invitee is a person who is freely invited into your store to engage in commerce. The most common example is Wal-Mart or Target. They open their doors during their business hours to sell products to the general public. A licensee is a person who has a specific pass that grants them access to a facility for a limited time. The most common example of this is a person going to the movies or a concert. You are allowed access and admission to the movie you purchased and/or the concert seat you bought. A licensee is a person with a license (i.e., movie ticket, concert ticket) that grants limited admission. A trespasser is a person who is not invited onto your property. This would be like a person who broke into your home in the middle of the night. The business attorney Tulsa legal duty owed by a shopkeeper to each of these individuals is different.

For an invitee, the shopkeeper has the responsibility to investigate, warn, and timely remedy hazards. Let me give you an example from my days as a litigator. I once, as a business attorney Tulsa, represented a grandmother who fell at an Atwoods store. The facts are as follows. Grandma parks in the parking lot and walks into the store. Unknown to Grandma, and moments before she entered, a lazy customer pushed a loading cart in front of the door and parked it there. By loading cart, I mean something different than a traditional shopping cart. A loading cart is a cart that is about 6 inches off the ground. They are used for transporting heavy bags of feed, pet food, and other large, heavy products. The handlebar stands about 3.5-4 feet off the ground, but that part was hidden behind the door and Grandma could not see it. The other complicating factor obstructing Grandma’s vision is this particular Atwoods faced west. Management elected to coat the windows with a black film to save on air-conditioning costs.

You can imagine what happened. Grandma walked into the store, did not see the cart, and tripped. She broke her hip and cracked her skull in two places. Her injuries were rather severe. What complicated matters on behalf of the store is the manager came out stating how sorry he was about the cart.

This scenario exposed the store to some considerable liability that required a business attorney Tulsa. Grandma required multiple surgeries and her medical bills were not cheap.

Atwoods owed a duty to investigate, warn, and timely remedy about the cart. Ideally, someone would have seen the cart and simply returned it to the cart area for the next customer. But they did not do so. As a result, litigation with a business attorney Tulsa.

For an invitee, the store owner still must investigate, warn, and timely remedy defects. However, that duty is confined to the nature and extent of the license. Let me give you an example. When I was in junior high, I lived in a small town where the only thing to do on the weekend was go the movies. My hometown finally got its own theatre in the Neosho Cinema 6. I remember we would go on “group dates” with my friends and our significant others at the time. Of course the goal in all of this was to go to the late movie, stay behind and sneak in a kiss or two. Suppose that this scenario played out and we stayed too late and the movie theatre accidentally closed. If one of us were to slip and fall, then there is a good chance the theatre would not be liable. Once the license expires, then, depending on the circumstances, the licensee usually becomes a trespasser.

For a trespasser, no legal business attorney Tulsa duty is owed. You probably recall the movie, “Liar, Liar.” This comedy is about Jim Carrey playing an overpriced, high-powered litigator who loses the ability to lie after lying for most of his career. There is a famous scene where he discusses representing a thief who broke into someone’s home and got hurt. Jim Carrey’s character represented the thief in a lawsuit against the homeowners and allegedly won monetary damages. I can assure you that such a scenario would not play out in a real life. A thief who breaks into someone else’s home is legally a trespasser and no legal duty is owed.

Let this business attorney Tulsa tell you that there are some exceptions to the trespasser rule. For example, in children, there is something called the “Attractive Nuisance” doctrine. The attractive nuisance doctrine is a complicated age-based paradigm that says businesses cannot have dangerous objects in plain sight that could attract children. If they do, and children get hurt, then the company could be liable even though the children are trespassers. The most common examples are oil rigs. If a company does not have proper measures preventing children from accessing the dangerous piece of equipment, then the company could be liable. The Attractive Nuisance doctrine uses a sliding scale to discern the maturity of the child and particular facts of whatever it is that attracted the children in the first place.

If you are a store owner, it is imperative that you and your employees constantly police the premises to identify and cure hazards. One of the most common lawsuits a business attorney Tulsa sees filed by personal injury attorneys are premises liability cases. While they are difficult to prove, a good premises liability case can be very profitable for the right Plaintiff and very costly to you.
If you want a custom approach to coaching your employees on how to avoid liability exposure, consider contacting the RC Law Group. I have prosecuted and defended hundreds of personal injury lawsuits. I am happy to help in anyway that I can even as a business attorney Tulsa.