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Examining the role of Licensee in Texas Premises Liability Law

If you are injured on someone else’s property and are classified as a “licensee,” what does this actually mean? What responsibilities does the property owner have to uphold for you under this classification? In this article we will explain these duties, give examples of who might be considered a licensee, and explain the elements that must be in place in order to have a licensee case under Texas Premises Liability Laws.

While an invitee is someone whose purpose for visiting a property is for mutual benefit (tenant, customer, etc.) and a trespasser is someone who has no business being on the property, a licensee is someone whose main purpose for visiting the property is to receive some sort of benefit or gain. Some examples of a licensee include:

  • A person who is a member of the household.
  • A person who is a guest to a member of the household.
  • Someone who makes a visit to a business only for his or her own purposes (loiterer, someone looking for a third person, etc.)
  • Someone who enters the property uninvited, but for the purpose of rescuing someone in danger (volunteer firefighter, police officer, etc.)
  • An off-duty employee
  • A door-to-door salesperson or solicitor (The door-to-door salesperson becomes an invitee if they are invited into the house.)

There are countless other types of licensees, but if you’re unsure of what category the person would be considered, think about the main definition of licensee. If the visitor goes to the property in order to gain something, but the person who owns the property will not gain much, if anything, that visitor is probably considered a licensee.

What are the duties a licensee is owed?

Out of the three types of visitors to a property, a licensee is the one who is owed the second highest or intermediate amount of owed duties. There are three main duties of premises liability that a property owner owes to a visitor. A licensee is owed two of these main three duties. The three duties relating to a licensee are as follows:

  1. The owner does not have a duty to inspect property for the purpose of warning the visitor of any dangerous conditions.
  2. The owner does have a duty to warn the visitor of any known dangerous conditions.
  3. The owner does have a duty to actively avoid gross negligence.

Because the licensee is coming to the property for their benefit, the property owners only have to warn the licensee if there are any dangerous conditions that are not obvious and that the property owners are aware of themselves. For example, if you are a guest at your friend’s house and you see a skateboard on their sidewalk, they are probably not liable if you trip over the skateboard. However, in another case, if you are at a friend’s house and they know one of their balcony rails is loose but don’t warn you or block access to this section of the rail, they will probably be liable if you are injured. In order for the property owner to be held liable, there must be a few common elements in place.

What are the necessary elements of a licensee cause of action?

In order for a licensee case to be viable, there must be seven elements in place. These are found in Chapter 23-C of the Texas Causes of Action.

  1. The plaintiff was a licensee at the time of the injury.
  2. The defendant was the rightful property owner or possessor at the time of the injury.
  3. There was an unsafe condition on the property that posed serious harm.
  4. The possessor had knowledge of this dangerous condition.
  5. The plaintiff was unaware of this dangerous condition.
  6. The defendant breached the duty of care by not warning the plaintiff of the known condition or attempting to make the condition safe.
  7. The defendant’s breach of duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

Here are the elements of a licensee case in more detail.

If all of these elements are in place, the licensee will have a case against the property owner for injuries sustained. At this point, the licensee should look into getting a lawyer to represent himself or herself. Grossman Law has represented numerous premises liability cases where the licensee had a claim against the property owner. We are experts in this area and would like to answer any questions you may have. Call (855)326-0000 to speak to one of our attorneys.

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