Hall v. Cagle, 1998-CT-01163-SCT.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation773 So.2d 928
Docket NumberNo. 1998-CT-01163-SCT.,1998-CT-01163-SCT.
PartiesBetty HALL v. Timothy Dale CAGLE and Bill Johnson, d/b/a Johnson Mobile Homes.
Decision Date28 September 2000

773 So.2d 928

Betty HALL
Timothy Dale CAGLE and Bill Johnson, d/b/a Johnson Mobile Homes

No. 1998-CT-01163-SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

September 28, 2000.

Rehearing Denied December 21, 2000.

James C. Patton, Jr., Louisville, Attorney for Appellant.

F. Gregory Malta, Meridian, Brett W. Robinson, Laurel, Attorneys for Appellee.



MILLS, Justice, for the Court:

¶ 1. On certiorari we reverse the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the trial court and remand for further proceedings.


¶ 2. Betty Hall was injured in an accident on August 28, 1995, at the home of Timothy and Beverly Cagle. The Cagles were moving into a mobile home, and Betty Hall was helping the Cagles unload boxes and arrange furniture. The Cagles purchased the home from Johnson Mobile Homes which had delivered it and provided

773 So.2d 929
temporary steps. Hall claimed that she assisted the Cagles from approximately nine o'clock in the morning until two o'clock in the afternoon. Hall stated in deposition testimony that she knew the steps to be shaky and that a Johnson employee cautioned her to be careful. Hall asserted that, upon leaving the Cagles' mobile home by a back door, she lost her footing on the steps and fell, thereby injuring herself

¶ 3. Hall filed an action in the Lauderdale County Circuit Court for damages against both the Cagles and Bill Johnson d/b/a Johnson Mobile Homes but the case was dismissed on motions for summary judgment after the circuit court found that she was a "licensee" rather than an "invitee." The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court, Hall v. Cagle, No.1998-CA-01163-COA (Miss.Ct.App. August 3, 1999), and denied Hall's motion for rehearing.


¶ 4. We have stated:

This Court employs a de novo (without deference) review on grants of summary judgment. Owen v. Pringle, 621 So.2d 668, 670 (Miss.1993). The trial court must review the evidence most favorably to the nonmoving party. Sanford v. Federated Guaranty Ins. Co., 522 So.2d 214, 217 (Miss.1988). There can be no issues of material fact in dispute. Stegall v. WTWV, Inc., 609 So.2d 348, 350-51 (Miss.1992). If reasonable minds can differ on a material fact, summary judgment is improper. Id. The trial court should also deny summary judgment where full presentation of the evidence would "result in a triable issue." Great Southern [National] Bank v. Minter, 590 So.2d 129, 135 (Miss.1991).

Presswood v. Cook, 658 So.2d 859, 862 (Miss.1995). Rule 56(c) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure allows entry of summary judgment where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. "[T]he lower court's decision is reversed only if it appears that triable issues of fact remain when the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Robinson v. Singing River Hosp. Sys., 732 So.2d 204, 207 (Miss.1999)(citing Box v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 692 So.2d 54, 56 (Miss. 1997)).

¶ 5. As concerns the distinction between an invitee and a licensee and the duty owed to each class, this Court has previously held:

[A]n invitee is a person who goes upon the premises of another in answer to the express or implied invitation of the owner or occupant for their mutual advantage. A licensee is one who enters upon the property of another for his own convenience, pleasure or benefit pursuant to the license or implied permission of the owner ... Payne v. Rain Forest Nurseries, Inc., 540 So.2d 35, 37 (Miss.1989) (citing Hoffman v. Planters Gin Co., 358 So.2d 1008, 1011 (Miss.1978));

Skelton ex rel. Roden v. Twin County Rural Elec. Ass'n, 611 So.2d 931, 936 (Miss.1992).

A landowner owes a licensee only the duty to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring the licensee, unless the landowner engages in active conduct and knows of the licensee's presence. A landowner owes a business invitee a duty of reasonable care for the invitee's safety. 518 So.2d at 648; compare Wright v. Caffey, 239 Miss. 470, 477, 123 So.2d 841, 844 (1960) ("invited" social guest is not invitee); see also Adams v. Fred's Dollars[Dollar] Store of Batesville, 497 So.2d 1097, 1101 (Miss.1986); Hughes v. Star Homes, Inc., 379 So.2d 301 (Miss.1980).

611 So.2d at 936. Mississippi has, in one instance, recognized that a visitor may be an invitee where he comes to the home of the occupant, not for a business purpose, but, nevertheless, for the benefit of the occupant. Minor v. Engineering Serv. Co., Inc., 304 So.2d 45 (Miss.1974). Carrie

773 So.2d 930
Minor, while at the home of her mother, tripped over a surveyor's tape left on the porch of her mother's home by Engineering Services who were on the premises with the permission of the landlord. The Court found her to be an invitee entitled to the higher degree of care upon noting that she was there for the purpose of taking her mother to a doctor's appointment. The Court distinguished Minor from one, a licensee, who crossed ground where pipe was stored and who entered the premises without any express invitation or any benefit to the occupant as was the case in Bishop v. Stewart, 234 Miss. 409, 106 So.2d 899 (1958)

¶ 6. The comment to the Restatement (Second) of Torts defines an "invitee" as members of the public who enter property for a purpose connected with the business of the possessor. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 332 (1965). The comment further recites that a social guest is not an invitee because "he does not enter for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with the business dealing with the possessor." Id. The Restatement also classifies as a licensee the volunteer who comes on the land without being asked to aid in getting a truck out of mud or to put out a fire. Id. § 332, Comment b.

¶ 7. In the present case, Hall alleged that she was at the home of the Cagles to perform a service for their benefit, i.e., to assist them in moving and unpacking. Her stated purpose was for the benefit of the possessors of the home. Although the Restatement is silent in the case where one enters the premises at the invitation of the possessor, not for the visitor's own benefit but to render a service to the possessor, our decision in Minor indicates that such a person is entitled to be classified an invitee and afforded the same duty of care even though he does not enter upon the property for a business purpose. Hall was present on the premises at the owners' invitation as opposed to mere permission. See Kurti v. Becker, 54 Conn.App. 335, 733 A.2d 916, 919 (1999).

¶ 8. Hall has alleged and proved sufficient facts to make a prima facie showing that she was an invitee rather than a licensee such that her complaint should not have been dismissed on motion for summary judgment.


¶ 9. For these reasons, the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the Lauderdale County Circuit Court are reversed, and this case is remanded to the Lauderdale County Circuit Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.



McRAE, Justice, concurring:

¶ 11. Betty Hall should not be considered an invitee or a licensee in the present case. Instead, the Court should require the jury to utilize a "reasonable person" standard to decide the liability on the part of the landowner. Therefore, I concur with this Court's majority in that this case should be reversed and remanded to the lower court for further proceedings. However, as to the reasoning behind this reversal, I disagree. This Court should abolish the invitee/licensee classifications for determining liability and replace them with a "reasonable person in like circumstances" standard. This Court years ago created the different burdens for licensees and invitees in conflict with our comparative negligence statute. Approximately twenty-four states have abolished the licensee/invitee classifications. There is no need to extend this "reasonable person" standard to the classification of trespassers.

773 So.2d 931
¶ 12. There is a modern trend away from the invitee/licensee/trespasser classifications in premises liability law to a "reasonable person in like circumstances" standard. The trend is moving away from placing the plaintiff in one of the three above categories and basing the owner/occupier's duty on what a reasonable person in like circumstances would do. This standard means that the owner/occupier should make the premises reasonably safe or warn the person on the premises if he is unable to make the premises safe

¶ 13. Previewing this trend among states, the United States Supreme Court did away with the distinction between invitees, licensees, and trespassers in maritime cases. Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 358 U.S. 625, 79 S.Ct. 406, 3 L.Ed.2d 550 (1959). In Kermarec, the Supreme Court did away with the distinction used to determine landowner liability and replaced it with a "duty of exercising reasonable care under the circumstances of each case." Id. at 631-32, 79 S.Ct. 406.

¶ 14. The Court in Kermarec discussed the root of the common law distinctions and stated these distinctions no longer are useful in today's modern society stating:

The distinctions which the common law draws between licensee and invitee were inherited from a culture deeply rooted to the land, a culture which traced many of its standards to a heritage of feudalism. In an effort to do justice in an industrialized urban society, with its complex economic and individual relationships, modern common-law courts have found it necessary to formulate increasingly subtle verbal refinements, to create sub-classifications among traditional common-law categories, and to delineate fine

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