Wood v. Camp

Decision Date03 October 1973
Docket NumberNo. 42837,42837
Citation284 So.2d 691
CourtFlorida Supreme Court
PartiesFrank WOOD and State Farm Fire & Casualty Company, an Illinois corporation, Petitioners, v. John O. CAMP, as father of Randall Glen Camp, Deceased, and John O. Camp, as Administrator of the Estate of Randall Glen Camp, deceased, Respondent.

David J. Williams, of Langston & Massey, Lakeland, for petitioners.

Robin Gibson of Woolfolk, Myers, Curtis, Craig & Gibson, Lake Wales, and Robert Orseck, of Podhurst, Orseck & Parks, P.A., Miami, for respondent.

DEKLE, Justice.

The standard of care to be exercised toward the 'social guest' is before us in this asserted conflict with Post v. Lunney, 261 So.2d 146 (Fla.1972). Lunney involved only a 'public invitee' so that there is conflict of course with that part of the Second District holding sought to be reviewed, reported at 265 So.2d 730 (1973), which attributes tributes to Lunney an erroneous principle beyond its holding. 1 The extent of our holding in Lunney was to remove the former 'economic benefit' or 'mutual benefit' requirement of McNulty v. Hurley, 97 So.2d 185 (Fla.1957), and prior holdings, which was the former basis to qualify as a 'public invitee' entitled to the standard of 'reasonable care' at the hands of the property owner. We adopted instead an 'invitation test' as to Public or business invitees.

In the cause under review Judge Robert Mann undertook to remove all distinctions of standing and degrees of care involving trespassers, licensees and invitees upon a property owner's premises. Judge Mann would simply apply a test of reasonableness under the circumstances in every situation. 2 No other Florida court has ventured so far with such an over-simplification of a complex problem and the varying relationships which arise in which different legal principles have been applied.

The case asserted for conflict, upon which we took jurisdiction, Post v. Lunney, Supra, was simply an enlargement of the class of 'business invitees' to include 'public invitees' without regard to the former requirement for some economic benefit to the owner. We did not, however, change the differing degrees of care applying and in fact reiterated these (261 So.2d p. 147) and expressly continued the status of each class. 3

The validity of these differences is most apparent in the case of trespassers whose presence cannot be charged to the unknowing owner (absent an 'attractive nuisance' situation) and as to whom the owner or his representative, not knowing of his presence, has no opportunity to take precautions or to warn. Of course, the owner, if he does become aware of the trespasser's presence, must warn of any dangers known to him and not open to ordinary observation. An owner cannot, however, be held liable for a negligent condition as to an undiscovered trespasser who chooses to come upon his property without his knowledge. It is unreasonable to subject an owner to a 'reasonable care' test against someone who isn't supposed to be there and about whom he does not know. The unwavering rule as to a trespasser is that the property owner is under the duty only to avoid willful and wanton harm to him and upon discovery of his presence to warn him of known dangers not open to ordinary observation. 4

The trouble with a complete dissolution of distinctions in the classes of those who come upon one's property si that they do not lend themselves to a single class or relationship with the property owner. For example, consider the property owner's position where his tenant, such as a roomer or occupant of a hotel room, invites the tenant's friend over for an afternoon visit. The friend proceeds upon arrival through the corridors of the property owner's building on his way to the room of the invitor but becomes interested in an adjoining recreation room or service area (not a 'common corridor') down which he proceeds and falls over a stack of tables customarily kept there for the use of the hotel dining room. He never gets to the invitor's (tenant's) premises at all. The property owner is not responsible to such an 'uninvited guest' as he would be to his own 'invitee' for 'reasonable care'. 5

The guest in our example has gone into areas where the hotel owner would not expect him to be and yet under a 'pure' reasonable care doctrine as enunciated by Judge Mann the property owner would be as obligated to such a 'stranger' as he would be to his own paying customers at a banquet. There is a valid distinction in the duty of care between the two because it is the Relationship established between persons which must be the criterion for the duty owed. The hotel owner would have no reason to expect its tenants' guests in the hotel service area during the day and therefore under our former delineations of different categories, he would owe such a person only the historical duty toward a 'licensee', not intentionally to expose him to harm and to warn against actual known dangers, of which a customarily stacked group of tables in a service area would not likely be a reasonably anticipated danger to the 'off limits' guest.

The asserted answer which is suggested to us for these concerns is that they are all 'washed out' or melded into a general consideration by the jury as to what was proper and reasonable under the circumstances; we are told that the jury might well find that it was not a violation of 'reasonable care' to have the tables stacked in the service area and thus the jury would find for the defendant. This may be so but it is a dangerous generality (and expense) to which to subject an owner. Such vague terminology applied in every circumstance affords no guidelines or distinctions, even as to the respasser; just to say that the rule is 'reasonable care under the circumstances' in all instances ignores the responsibility of the law to provide guidance. Surely the category of trespasser must receive separate consideration because of the unsolicited relationship and if this be a valid distinction, why is not that between the Uninvited guest and one who is an invitee?

Perhaps the distinction of 'invited' and 'uninvited' visitor is the fairest line of demarcation and the division should be between the guest who is uninvited or who is invited, either expressly or by an invitation which can be reasonably implied from the circumstances.

Plaintiff refers to a category which he terms 'licensees by invitation' and suggests that such persons should be transposed to a status of an express invitee. This may be the same thing in different language than ours expressed immediately above. Plaintiff argues with some logic that it does not seem reasonable to have a higher degree of care for commercial persons who come upon the property (reasonable care) and those friends who are invited as social guests who are now treated only as licensees (not intentionally to harm and to warn of known dangers). We admit to being troubled by the variation and yet must seek to ascribe reasonable rules.

We decline to recognize the purportedly innocuous rule suggested by the Second District, that a jury should merely be instructed that the duty of care of the landowner is 'whether the landowner's actions were reasonable in light of all the factual circumstances in the case.' This is too vague and unreasonable a test to apply to a landowner because of the remaining, inherent distinctions in relationships involved between persons who come upon an owner's property; neither does it sufficiently afford a reasonable standard which can be applied as a measure by the jury. Some guidelines which the jury can apply to the facts in arriving at a just verdict, are indicated.

Consider, for example, the liability of the landowner for a latent defect for which he would normally not be liable but becomes liable if he actually knows of it so that he might warn of the dangerous condition. Ladenson v. Eder, 195 So.2d 211 (Fla.1967). The case of active negligence not related to the premises is of course a valid exception. Hix v. Billen, 284 So.2d 209.

A Tenant's social guest has been viewed only as a licensee as to the landlord, which is a perfectly logical relationship where there is no contact between them. Tomei v. Center, 116 So.2d 251 (Fla.App.2d 1959); Roth v. Flom, 105 So.2d 179 (Fla.App.3d 1958); and Jackson v. Asselta, 160 So.2d 167 (Fla.App.3d 1964). These are areas requiring guidelines.

We resolve our dilemma in a troublesome area by concluding, and we so hold, that the class of invitees now under the present definition in Lunney as entitled to reasonable care is expanded to include those who are 'licensees by invitation' of the property owner, either by express or reasonably implied invitation. We thereby eliminate the distinction between commercial (business or public) visitors and social guests upon the premises, applying to both the single standard of reasonable care under the circumstances. In doing so, we continue the category of licensees who are Uninvited, that is, persons who choose to come upon the premises solely for their own convenience without invitation either expressed or reasonably implied under the circumstances. We realize this very limited category seems to...

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146 cases
  • Hopkins v. Fox & Lazo Realtors
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • June 16, 1993
    ...294, 333 A.2d 127 (1975). Many other jurisdictions have eliminated the distinction between licensees and business invitees. Wood v. Camp, 284 So.2d 691 (Fla.1973); Hardin v. Harris, 507 S.W.2d 172 (Ky.1974); Poulin v. Colby College, 402 A.2d 846 (Me.1979); Mounsey v. Ellard, 363 Mass. 693, ......
  • Vega by Muniz v. Piedilato
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • June 23, 1998
    ...(Tenn.1984); Antoniewicz v. Reszcynski, 70 Wis.2d 836, 236 N.W.2d 1 (1975); Clarke v. Beckwith, 858 P.2d 293 (Wyo.1993); cf. Wood v. Camp, 284 So.2d 691 (Fla.1973) (abolishing distinction between commercial visitors and social guests but retaining the distinction between invitees and uninvi......
  • Skelton By and Through Roden v. Twin County Rural Elec. Ass'n, 90-CA-0523
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • December 31, 1992
    ...distinction between licensee and invitee while retaining the significance of an entrant's status as a trespasser. See, e.g., Wood v. Camp, 284 So.2d 691 (Fla.1973); Camp v. Gulf Counties Gas Co., 265 So.2d 730 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1972); Poulin v. Colby College, 402 A.2d 846 (Me.1979); Peterson......
  • Sherman v. Suburban Trust Co., 43
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • April 3, 1978
    ...(1972); O'Leary v. Coenen, 251 N.W.2d 746 (N.D.1977); Antoniewicz v. Reszcynski, 70 Wis.2d 836, 236 N.W.2d 1 (1975). See also Wood v. Camp, 284 So.2d 691 (Fla.1973). Several jurisdictions which have expressly considered Rowland and its progeny have decided to retain the common law classific......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Premises Liability Law
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Slip and Fall Practice Part One. Case Evaluation
    • May 6, 2012
    ...that have abolished the differences between invitees and licensees, but have maintained limited duty for trespassers. Wood v. Camp , 284 So.2d 691 (Fla. 1973); Poulin v. Colby College , 402 A.2d 846 (Me. 1979); Mounsey v. Ellard , 363 Mass. 693 (1973); Peterson v. Balach , 294 Minn. 161 (19......
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    • United States
    • Florida Bar Journal Vol. 83 No. 11, December 2009
    • December 1, 2009
    ...1972). (8) Id. at 148 (quoting Restatement (second) of torts [section] 332(2) (1977)). (9) Id. (10) Id. at 150. (11) See Wood v. Camp, 284 So. 2d 691, 694-95 (Fla. 1973). (12) Iber v. R.P.A. Int'l Corp., 585 So. 2d 367, 368-69 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 1991). (13) Stewart, 67 So. 2d at 654 (emphasis ......

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