Washington Case Law Update: When is a Visitor Deemed to be a Business Invitee?

When is a Visitor Deemed to be a Business Invitee?

From the Desk of Smith Freed Eberhard: In Washington, a possessor of land owes a duty of care to visitors (known as “entrants”).  The duty of care differs depending on the status of the entrant.  The entrant is classified as either an invitee, licensee or trespasser, and the highest duty of care is owed to an invitee.  If the entrant’s visit was primarily for social reasons yet the entrant provided an incidental economic benefit to the possessor, will the entrant be classified as an invitee?  Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a plaintiff who was injured after falling over a step at the defendant’s house, the Washington Court of Appeals held that because the primary reason for the plaintiff’s visit was social, the plaintiff was considered to be a licensee at the time of the incident.  The court further held that because the plaintiff was aware of the dangerous condition before being injured, the plaintiff was barred from recovering under his premises liability claim against the defendants.

Akin v. Mckelvey, No. 75725-3-I, Washington Court of Appeals Div. I (February 5, 2018) (unpublished)

On December 21, 2014, Shawna Akin (“Akin”) went to the home of Julie McKelvey (“Julie”) and Michael McKelvey (collectively “the McKelveys”), in order to visit Julie who was recovering from a recent surgery.  Akin worked as an aesthetician, and Julie had been Akin’s client for the past seven years.  After the visit was planned, Akin offered to bring Julie “scar cream.”  According to Akin’s testimony, when she arrived at the home she noticed a single step concrete landing in front of the gate and sensed that the step did not look to be safe.  Akin stayed at the McKelveys’ home for about 30 minutes, where she met family members, drank tea, and toured the home.  Akin also gave Julie the scar cream, and Julie paid Akin.  When Akin was leaving, she stepped...

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