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What is the difference between an invitee and licensee?

A few weeks ago, this blog laid out some of the basic common law concepts that underpin premises liability law. While those concepts remain good background on the subject, in Georgia, there are statutory considerations that may modify some of the ideas that are normally used in this area of law. One of those facets that Georgia's statutory framework modifies is the definitions of, and legal duties land owners owe to, invitees and licensees.

Readers may remember that the category of 'invitee' is probably the most common one for a visitor to a piece of land or premises to fall into. It encompasses those with an explicit invitation, but also those who have been invited implicitly. An implicit invitation is generally assumed when, for example, a business is open to the public, and it accepts customers who come in at their own convenience. In these circumstances, an Atlanta property owner must exercise what the law calls 'ordinary care' in ensuring that the premises and the approaches thereto, such as a parking lot, are maintained safely.

A licensee, however, is a different story in Georgia. According to state statute, a licensee is a visitor who isn't a servant or a customer, but also not a trespasser. He or she does not have contractual relationship with the land owner and must have permission to be on the premises either express or implied. He or she visits the property for his or her own convenience or interests. To these individuals, the owner does not owe a duty of ordinary care. In fact, he or she will only be liable if the licensee is subject to willful or wanton injury.

Now, it may be noted that what constitutes the difference between an invitee or licensee may vary greatly depending on the specific facts of a case, not to mention what exactly may constitute will or wanton injury. Those who have been hurt on another's property may wish to consider talking to an experienced Atlanta premises liability attorney for help in sorting out such issues.

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