Recently, an out-of-state personal injury suit sought to determine what duties are owed to a business invitee by a homeowner.
Anyone invited onto land or property for the purpose of business is a business invitee. This could include a plumber, painter, or other service provider. In this particular case, the business invitee was a person the homeowner invited to assist in the performance of electrical work.
The suit stemmed from the plaintiff falling through an opening in the third floor of an uninhabited home. At the time, the home was under renovation and the invitee was injured after falling through the hole. He filed a negligence claim against the homeowner.
The district court ruled that as a business invitee, the plaintiff could not recover damages. The court ruled that the invitee was aware of the renovations and the potential dangers involved.
The plaintiff appealed the ruling, saying that even though an open and obvious danger requires no warning, there is still a duty for the property owner to inspect and maintain the premises in order to ensure that they are reasonably safe.
The appellate court reversed the district court’s ruling, saying that the lower court had not properly ascertained whether or not the owner had reasonably inspected and maintained the premises.
Premises liability cases in North Carolina might follow different statutes of limitations, depending on the severity of the victim's injuries. For example, as of this writing the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in North Carolina is three years from the day of the injury. The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from date of death. If a business invitee was fatally injured while on another party's premises, there could be a possibility for a wrongful death claim. In which case, the surviving family members of the estate would have a limited time to pursue a claim.