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Campbell v. Weathers

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Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Campbell (Plaintiff), entered the business of the Defendant, Weathers (Defendant) and without purchasing any items, used the restroom. Plaintiff was injured when he stepped into an open trap door on the way to the restroom. Plaintiff sues for negligence.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. If an individual enters a store with the intention of then, or at some other time, doing business with that store, he is an invitee.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

It is a well established rule in this state that in determining whether a plaintiff is guilty of contributory negligence when tested by demurrer, the question must be submitted to the jury if the facts are such that reasonable minds might reach different conclusions thereon.

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Facts. The Defendant operated a lunch counter and cigar stand. The Plaintiff entered Defendant’s business, stood by the front counter without making any purchases, then went to the back of the building to use the toilet. Plaintiff stepped into an open trap door in a dark hallway and was injured. Plaintiff sued for negligence and the trial court sustained Defendant’s demurrer to the evidence. Plaintiff appeals.

Issue. Was the trial court correct in determining that the plaintiff was not an invitee and that defendant was entitled to judgment?

Held. No. The order sustaining the demurrer of the Defendant is reversed.
* The first issue is to determine if Plaintiff was a trespasser, a licensee, or an invitee. It was conceded that Defendant was the operator of a business open to the public. Plaintiff had been a customer of the Defendant for a number of years. He had used the hallway and toilet on numerous occasions and had never been told that it was not for public use.
* This Court refuses to advance the theory that a regular customer is not an invitee simply because the customer has not made a purchase on the particular occasion on which he is injured. Based on the facts of this case Plaintiff is an invitee.

Discussion. The Court was quick to point out that if an individual were to enter a place of business solely on a personal errand or to advance his own interests he would not be considered an invitee.

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