The Difference Between An “Invitee” And “Trespasser” In Illinois Personal Injury Law
If you are injured on someone else’s property, the owner may be responsible for your medical bills and other losses under Illinois premises liability law. A common example of this would be a customer who slips and falls on a puddle of water in a store and breaks their leg. If the customer can prove the store’s management was negligent in failing to notice and clean up the puddle prior to the accident, the owner can be held legally responsible for the accident.
But a property owner’s liability turns on the legal status of the person who is injured. Illinois law distinguishes “invitees” from “trespassers” for purposes of premises liability. Put simply, an invitee is someone who is on the property lawfully, either for personal or business, while a trespasser is not. The property owner has a duty of care to keep their property in reasonably safe condition for invitees, but only a duty to refrain from “willful and wanton” conduct that might injure a trespasser.
Illinois Court: “FOR SALE” Sign Does Not Make a Trespasser an Invitee
Determining whether an accident victim is an invitee or trespasser is often a closer question that you might think. A recent Illinois appellate court decision, Ludwig v. B&R Corporation of America, provides a helpful illustration. The plaintiff in this case was riding his motorcycle with his friends. They rode onto a property owned by the defendants. While on the property, the defendant (and his motorcycle) fell off a cliff that marked the border between the defendant’s property and a neighboring property.
The plaintiff sustained about $116,000 in economic losses as the result of his accident. He subsequently filed a premises liability lawsuit, alleging the defendants were negligent in failing to warn invitees of the cliff. In response, the defense argued the plaintiff was a trespasser, and therefore owed him no such duty.
The plaintiff replied that he was an invitee because the defendants had posted a “FOR SALE” sign on the property and he was visiting as a “potential buyer.” The trial judge sided with the defendants and granted them summary judgment. The Illinois First District Appellate Court agreed and affirmed that decision.
The First District explained that the posting of a “FOR SALE” sign by itself was not enough to make the plaintiff an invitee. During a pre-trial deposition, the plaintiff testified that he had not contacted the defendant in advance to view the property as a potential buyer. And there was simply no legal authority–in Illinois or any other state, as far as the First District knew–that a “FOR SALE” sign rendered anyone who happened to be on the property an invitee. (The Court also pointed out in a footnote that the plaintiff made $45,000 a year at the time, and the defendants’ property was listed for $5.5 million, making him a most unlikely buyer.)
Contact Illinois Personal Injury Lawyer Baku N. Patel Today
Anytime that an unsafe condition on someone else’s property harms you, it is important to speak with a qualified Champaign premises liability attorney about your right to seek compensation under the law. Attorney Baku N. Patel and his team can review your accident and advise you on the best course of action. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.