Whelan v. Van Natta

Procedural History

Whelan (Plaintiff) v. Van Natta (Defendant) (1964)

Trial court gave judgment for the D, and the P appealed.

–  Court held that the D was an invitee and the P owed no duty to provide a safe place, except to hat abstained from doing any intentional or willful act endangering his safety or knowingly letting P run upon a hidden peril (simply put, the D had a duty to warn the P of unknown dangers, in which the P knew about at the time).

Facts

–          Plaintiff went into defendant’s grocery store, purchased some cigarettes. He then asked about a box for his son, when the defendant, who was busy, told him to go to the back of the store, and grab a box – upon going in the back of the store, the plaintiff, fell, because there was no light on, in an invisible stairwell…

–          Defendant did not warn the P of the stairwell, that the light had been on that prior morning and he did not know whether or not that it was still on.

Issue

Is the Plaintiff, and invitee or a licensee?

Holding

At the time of which, when he fell, he was a licensee.

Rule

An invitee ceases to be an invitee after the expiration of a reasonable time within which to accomplish the purpose for which he is invited to enter or remain.

Court reasoning

–          One is an invitee as long as he/she stays within the scope of the invitation as well as the physical area of invitation

  • As the P went into the back of the store (for his own personal gains, and not the store owner) the P changed from an invitee to a licensee (not a trespasser) because he was there with the consent of the shop owner, and was there for the furtherance of his own purposes.

Quick Facts

–  Comparing someone between an invitee and licensee is very important because it establishes what type of duty, if any, the Defendant owes to the injured party.

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