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Carter v. Kinney

    Brief Fact Summary.

    After Carter (Plaintiff) slipped on ice in Mr. and Mrs. Kinney’s (Defendants) driveway, he sued claiming that he was an invitee and thus Defendants had a duty to protect him from known dangers and those that could be determined by a reasonable inspection.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A social guest is a licensee, and so a homeowner does not owe him the same duty of care as an invitee, but must only protect him from known hazards.

    Facts.

    Defendants held Bible study gatherings in their home for members of their church. Defendants received no payment or other benefits from holding the meetings at their home. After a snowfall, Mr. Kinney shoveled the driveway one evening. That night, ice formed on the driveway without Defendants’ knowledge. When Plaintiff arrived early the next morning for Bible study, he slipped on the ice and broke his leg. Plaintiff sued Defendants, arguing that he was an invitee in their home and was therefore owed the duty of care to protect him from both known dangers and those that could be determined by a reasonable inspection. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the basis that Plaintiff was a licensee and only owed a duty of care to protect him from known dangers. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    Does a homeowner owe social guests the duty of care to protect them from both known dangers and those that could be determined by a reasonable inspection, as he would an invitee?

    Held.

    (Robertson, J.) No. A social guest is a licensee, and so a homeowner does not owe him the same duty of care as an invitee, but must only protect him from known hazards. An invitee is someone who is invited onto the owner’s property for the purpose of conducting business with the land owner or possessor. Plaintiff agreed that Defendants received no payment or other benefit from holding the Bible study meetings in their home. Although Plaintiff was at the home for a Bible study meeting and not to socialize with Defendants, he still is considered a licensee. Affirmed.

    Discussion.

    The court points out that Plaintiff’s argument focused on the wrong issue when he sought to be defined as an invitee by showing that the Defendants received an intangible benefit from hosting the Bible study group. Had he instead argued that the icy driveway was a known hazard, or one that should have been known, due to the weather conditions and Mr. Kinney’s shoveling the night before, he might have prevailed.



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