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Leffler v. Sharp

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff went to Quarter Inn, a restaurant and bar owned by Kim Free, which was located in a building owned by Harry Sharp, with some coworkers. Plaintiff went outside Quarter Inn and climbed through a window that was left open in the building. Once through the window, Plaintiff climbed to the rooftop that had a nearby glass door with a sign stenciled, “NOT AN EXIT.” While on the rooftop, Plaintiff fell and sustained serious injuries. Plaintiff brought suit against Kim Free, Quarter Inn, and Harry Sharp. Kim Free and Harry Sharp motioned for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff was a trespasser. The court granted summary judgment on both motions. Plaintiff appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    One is deemed a trespasser when he or she enters another premises without the latters express or implied permission to enter.

    Facts.

    Walter Leffler, Plaintiff, and some coworkers went out to gamble and drink. By the end of the night, Plaintiff and his coworkers went to the Quarter Inn. Quarter Inn is a restaurant and bar that Kim Free owned and operated. Quarter Inn was located on the second floor of a building owned by Sharp Enterprises, which was owned by Harry Sharp.At a certain moment, while at Quarter Inn, Plaintiff left to get away from the noise and heat. When Plaintiff was outside, he spied through an open window nearly three feet above the floor. Specifically, the window was 24 inches long and 32 inches wide. Through the window, the Plaintiff was able to see a couple of people on the adjacent rooftop. Also, there was a nearby glass door, which led to the rooftop, that was locked and stenciled “NOT AN EXIT.” Plaintiff went through the window and to the rooftop. When he was walking on the rooftop, Plaintiff fell through the roof, causing him serious injuries. This particular area was previously a terrace, but was closed off because it was not safe. Plaintiff sued Free, individually and d/b/a Quarter Inn, and Sharp in a Mississippi state court. Free and Sharp both filed motions for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff was a trespasser when he was on the rooftop. Plaintiff contended that, under these circumstances, he was an invitee or a licensee. The trial court granted summary judgment to Sharp and Free, and Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether one is a trespasser when he or she enters another premises without the latters express or implied permission to enter.

    Held.

    Yes, one is a trespasser when he or she enters another premises without the latters express or implied permission to enter.

    Discussion.

    Pursuant to Mississippi law, premises liability is contingent on (1) the injured party’s status as either an invitee, licensee, or trespasser; (2) the landowner or possessor’s duty relative to the injured party’s status; and (3) whether the applicable duty was breached. In this case, Plaintiff was a trespasser when he was on the rooftop, and thus, the defendants did not owe Plaintiff any duties. For one to be an invitee,one must be expressly or implicitly be invited onto the premises of another for both parties’ mutual benefit. Plaintiff was not invited to access the roof and Plaintiff did not access the roof for the benefit of defendants.Likewise, Plaintiff was not a licensee because to be a licensee the property owner or possessor expressly or implicitly permits entry of the individual onto the premises. To obtain permission, the individual entering the premises must reasonably believe that the owner or possessor would allow the entry. The situation here does not reasonable allow Plaintiff to believe he had permission even though the window was open. The glass door had a sign that specifically stated “NOT AN EXIT.” Therefore, Plaintiff was a trespasser when he accessed the roof because he did not have the defendants’ permission, invitation, or another right to be there. The only duty a property owner owes to a trespasser is the duty not to willfully or wantonly cause the trespasser injury. The owner does not need to make the trespass impossible. Here, the defendants took sufficient steps to indicate that the rooftop was not an area that they permitted the public to enter, and the defendants did not act willfully or wantonly to injury Plaintiff. Therefore, the judgment is affirmed. 


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