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2. Family and employees of possessor:  The benefits available to the possessor are also shared, according to most courts, by members of the possessor’s household as well as persons working on the land for his benefit either as employees or independent contractors. See Rest. 2d, §384.

3. The term “owner” used for convenience:  In this outline the terms “landowner” or “property owner” are used, for convenience, to designate the person who, as possessor of the land, has the benefit of these special rules.

B. Three categories:  The common law evolved a rigid series of categories of plaintiffs, as to each of which the landowner owed a sharply differing duty of care. The three principal classes were “trespasser”, “licensee” and “invitee”. The “trespasser” was one who had no right at all to be on the land; the “licensee” was one who came on the land with the owner’s consent, but as a social guest (not a business visitor), and the “invitee” was one who came with a business purpose. The owner’s duty of care with respect to the “trespasser” was the least, and that with regard to the “invitee” the greatest.

1. Present significance:  As is discussed infra, p. 248, the significance of these three rigid categories, and the duties relative to each, have been rejected or modified by at least some modern courts, but most courts continue to apply them. Therefore, the highly formalistic rules for determining which category a particular plaintiff falls into must be carefully studied.


A. General rule as to trespassers:  The general rule is that the landowner owes no duty to a trespasser to make her land safe, to warn of dangers on it, to avoid carrying on dangerous activities on it, or to protect the trespasser in any other way. The theory behind this view is that a property owner should be entitled to use her land as she wishes, without worrying about the safety of those who have no right to be on it. See Rest. 2d, §333.

Example:  P trespasses along D Railroad’s track. His foot gets caught in the track bed, and he is run over by one of D’s trains, which fails to stop in time P alleges both that the roadbed was negligently maintained, and that D’s employees were negligent in not stopping in time.

Held, since P was a trespasser, D owed him no duty of maintaining the roadbed, train brakes or other equipment in a safe condition, or of running the train at low enough speeds to be safe. D may have owed P a duty of reasonable care once his presence was discovered (one of the exceptions discussed below), but as to this duty, the evidence is that D’s employees met this standard. Sheehan v. St. Paul & Duluth Ry. Co., 76 F. 201 (7th Cir. 1896).

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