In a previous post I discussed the second common law status in premises liability. In terms of the duty owed to licensees, the inquiry into the ‘unreasonable risk of injury’ part is an objective one, meaning it doesn’t matter if the particular landowner himself was under a subjective belief that a certain risk of injury was in fact ‘reasonable’ or not; rather, what actually matters is whether that landowner, using a standard of the hypothetical ‘reasonable man,’ should have realized the risk of injury.
Consequently, given the somewhat ambiguous definition of ‘licensees/social guests,’ it is easy to miss the distinction between this status and that of ‘invitees.’ As such, in an attempt to clarify the difference between these two statuses, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors, 132 N.J. 426 (1993), another leading case in the area of premises liability, has offered the following explanation:
An owner or possessor of property owes a higher degree of care to the business invitee because that person has been invited on the premises for purposes of the owner that often are commercial or business related. A lesser degree of care is owed to a social guest or licensee, whose purposes for being on the land may be personal as well as for the owner’s benefit. [emphasis added].
One might be confused, and think that a person can in fact fit the definitions of both an invitee as well as a licensee; that person would be correct, which is why it is always important to retain a law firm that is experienced in pursuing these types of claims.