Duties of a Landowner to People on the Property

Figuring out whether the property owner is at fault for your slip and fall is done on a case-by-case basis by a court or jury.  In most instances for customers on a business property, you must prove the landowner did not act reasonably by breaching its duty to you of being "careful" like a normal business or person would be after inviting you on its property to shop or browse.

But, through the years, Indiana has ruled that how careful the landowner must be varies.  The level of "care" depends upon whether or not you had a right to be there. 

Indiana courts have long ruled that the entrant's status on the land determines the duty owed by the landowner.


The 3 standards of care depend upon how the person on the land is classified.  The 3 types include:

  • Trespasser: the lowest duty to be careful -- the landowner must only refrain from willfully or wantonly (intentionally) injuring the entrant after discovering his presence.
  • Licensee: a middle ground of being careful -- the landowner must refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring the entrant or acting in a manner to increase his peril.  The landowner must also warn a licensee of any (hidden) latent dangers on the premises of which the landowner knows about.                                     
  • Invitee: landowner owes the highest duty = landowner required to exercise reasonable care for entrant's protection as long as he remains on the land.

The Indiana Supreme Court in the case of Burrell v. Meads, 569 N.E.2d 637 (Ind. 1991) ( Link to Court Opinion of Burrell v. Meads ) said that "the best definition" of the duty owed to an invitee comes from the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 (1965):

A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to his invitees by a condition on the land if, but only if, he

(a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees, and

(b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it, and

(c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.

This law is often read to the jury at the end of the jury trial for the jury to follow when deciding if the landowner was negligent or not.

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