Tort Law – Liability as Invitee or Licensee

The difference between an invitee and a licensee is the level of duty of care owed to each by the landowner. A person who enters the premises of a landowner by invitation, as part of the general public for a lawful purpose, would be considered an invitee. The landowner must provide an invitee reasonable care to keep the invitee safe from harm. This means the landowner must be aware of impending dangers and exercise care in reducing or eliminating these dangers.

Individuals who are on the premises for business purposes, such as a contractor or customer, as well as visitors who are on the premises by public invitation to an event or gathering, would be considered invitees. A person who enters the landowner’s premises as a social guest is considered a licensee, as is to be treated the same as the landowner himself, whereas no special consideration or preparation would be made for the arrival of such. Therefore, a landowner’s obligation to a licensee is to not willfully or wantonly injure the licensee, or to be grossly negligent by not warning the licensee of dangers the landowner is aware of.

At a minimum the landowner must make aware to the licensee, any hazardous conditions so the licensee can exercise caution. In the case of a person being injured on a landowner’s premises during a garden tour, whether or not the person has paid an admission fee directly to the landowner himself should be considered an invitee. The landowner made his/her premises open to the public for use of the area for a club function. Therefore, visitors onto the landowner’s property were not there as social guests of the landowner.

These particular visitors are not expected to enter the premises and occupy it as the landowner himself uses it. Special preparation and consideration is expected in order to prepare for the public guests, therefore extra precautions would be made for the comfort and safety of all visitors of the Garden Club. One consideration I would explore in this type of case is whether the Garden Club holds any type of liability insurance for special events put on for the general public.

Garden clubs often hold liability insurance for members during meetings at fixed locations, but may not cover special events put on for the public. However, an extra rider can be added for special events. According to the Garden Club of Illinois (n. d. ) website, extra special event liability insurance coverage is available for an extra cost. Because a tour of homes sponsored by the Garden Club makes this a public event and landowners will be allowing the general public on to the premises, there is risk of a personal injury claim being filed against the landowner, should something happen.

Taking this into consideration, it would be appropriate for a Garden Club to look in to purchasing extra special event coverage in order to protect landowners who have been kind enough to open their homes to the public, without fear of a lawsuit by an invitee, should someone unintentionally be injured.


  • Garden Club of Illinois. (n. d. ). Notes from the treasurer. Retrieved from http://gci. esiteasp. com/garden_glories/forms. htm.