Steen v. Grenz

Decision Date29 July 1975
Docket NumberNo. 12959,12959
PartiesArthur STEEN, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Rose GRENZ and Chris Grenz, defendants and Respondents.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Roland V. Colgrove and John M. Kline, Miles City, Roland V. Colgrove, argued, Miles City, for plaintiff and appellant.

Lucas, Jardine & Monaghan, Miles City, Thomas M. Monaghan, argued, Miles City, for defendants and respondents.

CASTLES, Justice.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment granted by the district court, Custer County, to defendants Rose and Chris Grenz. Plaintiff Arthur Steen brought the original action to recover damages for an injury allegedly suffered to his wrist while entering a restaurant owned by defendants.

Plaintiff, at approximately 1:30 a. m., April 10, 1969, ate dinner at the 600 Cafe owned by defendants. After paying for the meal he left through the restaurant's front door and went down the side street, heading towards his home. He stopped at the restaurant's side entrance to give his wife, who worked at the restaurnat, a message to call him early that morning because he had to get to work earlier than usual that day. He stated that as he started up the stairs he stumbled over some debris on the steps, fell forward, and his hand broke the glass in the door seriously lacerating his wrist.

Steen filed a complaint alleging defendants were negligent in allowing the debris to accumulate around the door steps, especially in light of the fact defendants were aware the public used the side entrance to enter their restaurant.

Depositions were taken and after all discovery was completed defendants moved for a summary judgment. In support, they argued plaintiff was a licensee at the time he attempted to enter the restaurant's side entrance, there was no showing of willful or wanton negligence on the part of defendants, and that that is the only duty owed by the landowner to a licensee. The district court granted defendants summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals.

Four issues are presented for review:

1. Should this Court abandon the licensee, invitee, trespasser distinction?

2. Were defendants guilty of active negligence and therefore liable to plaintiff for the damages he suffered in spite of the licensee relationship?

3. Was plaintiff a licensee at the time the accident occurred?

4. Did defendants, as abutting owners, owe the duty to those using the sidewalk to use and keep their premises so as not to render the sidewalk unsafe for ordinary traffic?

First, plaintiff argues this Court should abandon the licensee, invitee, trespasser distinctions in favor of the reasonable negligence theory. We are not persuaded. The distinctions between invitee, licensee, and trespasser have been consistently applied in Montana's case law and we find no compelling reason to change those distinctions at this time.

Second, plaintiff argues there was active negligence on the part of defendants in allowing debris to collect on the steps of their restaurant. Further, that such active negligence is an exception to the rule that a landowner owes a licensee only the duty to refrain from wanton and willful negligence. We find that argument to be nothing more than a hybrid of plaintiff's first argument that this Court should abandon the distinctions between licensee, invitee and trespassers. Again, we cannot see any necessity to abandon this principle of law which has been the ruling law of Montana for many years.

Third, plaintiff alludes to the fact that at the time he was entering the restaurant's side entrance he was not a licensee. We cannot agree with any argument that plaintiff was not a licensee at the time he attempted to enter the entrance in question. He was entering for his own benefit, that is,...

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6 cases
  • Alcaraz v. Vece
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • January 31, 1997
    ...likely to walk. In those cases, it becomes the liability of the abutting owner to keep such devices in good repair." (Steen v. Grenz (1975) 167 Mont. 279, 538 P.2d 16, 18; see also Annot., Liability of Abutting Owner or Occupant for Condition of Sidewalk (1963) 88 A.L.R.2d 331,that defendan......
  • Holland v. Baltimore & O. R. Co.
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • May 29, 1981
    ...v. Walker, 249 N.W.2d 839, 842 (Iowa 1977); Gerchberg v. Loney, 223 Kan. 446, 449-455, 576 P.2d 593, 597-600 (1978); Steen v. Grenz, 167 Mont. 279, 538 P.2d 16, 17 (1975); Andrews v. Taylor, 34 N.C.App. 706, 708, 239 S.E.2d 630, 632 (1977); Moore v. Denune & Pipic, Inc., 26 Ohio St.2d 125, ......
  • Younce v. Ferguson
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • September 11, 1986
    ...not to abandon at least with respect to trespassers); Astleford v. Milner Enters., Inc., 233 So.2d 524 (Miss.1970); Steen v. Grenz, 167 Mont. 279, 538 P.2d 16 (1975); Buchanan v. Prickett & Son, Inc., 203 Neb. 684, 279 N.W.2d 855 (1979); Moore v. Denune & Pipic, Inc., 26 Ohio St.2d 125, 269......
  • Lohrenz v. Lane
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1990
    ...Gas & Electric Co., 290 Md. 186, 428 A.2d 459 (1981); Astleford v. Milner Enterprises, 233 So.2d 524 (Miss.1970); Steen v. Grenz, 167 Mont. 279, 538 P.2d 16 (1975); Buchanan v. Prickett & Son, Inc., 203 Neb. 684, 279 N.W.2d 855 (1979); Caroff v. Liberty Lumber Co., 146 N.J.Super 353, 369 A.......
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