Under Pennsylvania law, property owners owe a “duty” to the public to ensure that their property is safe and free from hazards. This “duty” entails that property owners must take steps to protect the public from being injured on their property. However, when bringing a lawsuit against a property owner it is important to know the difference of the duty owed.
In Pennsylvania, the public is classified into three categories and the duty owed to each classification, as follows:
Invitees: Here you are classified as an invitee if you have permission to be on the property either by invitation or business purposes, i.e. shopping in a store. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care and property owners are required to protect invitees from reasonable known and unknown hazards.
Licensees: Here you are classified as a licensee if you have permission to be on the property but usually not for the purpose where the property owner would benefit from you being there, i.e. an economic benefit. Property owners are required to protect licensees from only known hazards.
Trespassers: Here you are classified as a trespasser when you do not have permission to be on the property. Property owners do not owe a duty to protect trespassers from hazards, known or unknown, however they cannot intentionally or purposefully harm trespassers.