The recent Mississippi appellate case Elliot v. First Security Bank arose out of a slip and fall. A woman sued a bank for a shoulder injury she experienced after falling on the sidewalk in front of the bank. She and her son had gone to a restaurant downtown to eat. They couldn't find parking in front of the restaurant, and the woman had a whiskey drink before dinner. After dinner, the woman and her son went back to the car. As she walked to the passenger side of the car, she tripped on the uneven pavement and fell. Although the sidewalk is owned by the city, the bank maintained an easement on it.
The woman got medical care at the local hospital. Doctors told her she had hurt her rotator cuff. She had surgery to repair her rotator cuff and went to physical therapy. The woman asserted that the injury led to medical bills, as well as job loss. The woman sued the city and the bank. She argued that, even though there was no mutual benefit to her being on the sidewalk, she should still be considered the bank's invitee. Premises liability law requires property owners to show the highest degree of care towards invitees. The woman also argued that the city's duty should be imputed to the bank because it owned a sidewalk easement. The woman settled with the city during mediation.
The bank filed a motion for summary judgment. It argued it didn't have a duty to the woman at all because it was closed, she wasn't using the ATM, and she wasn't doing business at the bank. She was only there because her car was parked there, and therefore she was not an invitee.
The circuit court decided that, since the woman came onto the property for her own convenience with no benefit to the bank, she was only a licensee at the time of the slip and fall. Therefore, its only duty to the woman was not to willfully or wantonly hurt her. Since no evidence was brought forward to show willful or wanton injury, the court granted summary judgment.
The woman appealed and argued that the court had incorrectly designated her as a licensee. She argued that she was an invitee because her status as an invitee of the city had to be imputed to the bank.
The appellate court explained that in Mississippi, a three-part analysis is performed to decide whether a property owner is liable to an injured individual in a premises liability lawsuit. The court must decide the injured person's status (invitee, licensee, or trespasser) at the time of the accident, the defendant's duty to the injured person, and whether there was a breach of duty.
The appellate court explained that an injured party's status on the property must be analyzed separately with regard to each defendant. In this case, the analysis was different for the city and the bank. There was no basis for the plaintiff's argument regarding imputation of status.
An invitee is someone who comes onto the premises in answer to an express or implied invitation by the owner or occupier for mutual benefit. A licensee is somebody who comes onto property for his or her own pleasure or benefit under a license or with implied permission.
In this case, the woman was on the property with no benefit to the bank. The appellate court ruled that the bank didn't breach its duty of care to her, and the judgment was affirmed.
If you or a loved one has been hurt on someone else's property in Mississippi, you should retain an experienced premises liability attorney for help recovering compensation from the property owner and other responsible parties. Contact the skilled team at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC for a free consultation today.
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