Legal Information on South Carolina Law

Premises Liability: What is it?

If you were injured on someone else’s property, what next?

If you are seriously injured, call for medical help. Next, take photographs of the condition of the property which injured you. Also let the owner know of the injury and the dangerous conditions in writing. Lastly, write down the names and numbers of anyone who may have seen the injury.

In this article you will learn:

  • The requirements of a premises liability case
  • The three types of injured parties in South Carolina
  • The duty of care owed to each type of injured party

There are three types of trespassers.

Legal Status of Injured Party:

3 Types of Trespassers: 

Adult Trespassers

This is a person who enters a piece of property without permission. This is the lowest level of duty required. If you did not have permission to be on the premises it is very difficult to bring a legal action if you are injured. However, there are some exceptions to this, if for example it was known to the owner that individuals routinely trespassed on the property a court could find a heightened duty.

Trespassing Children

There is a heightened duty to protect children including trespassing children. In Hence ex rel. Hunt, v. International Paper Co, the South Carolina Supreme Court held: A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm to children trespassing thereon caused by an artificial condition upon the land if:

  • (a) the place where the condition exists is one upon which the possessor knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass, and
  • (b) the condition is one of which the possessor knows or has reason to know and which he realizes or should realize will involve an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm to such children, and
  • (c) the children because of their youth do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in intermeddling with it or in coming within the area made dangerous by it, and
  • (d) the utility to the possessor of maintaining the condition and the burden of eliminating the danger are slight as compared with the risk to children involved, and
  • (e) the possessor fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise to protect the children.

See: 374 S.C. 375, 650 S.E.2d 74 (2007); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 339 (1965).

“If Children regularly trespass on your land and there is a dangerous condition, please speak to a lawyer before an injury happens to advise about how to protect the children. It is better to do this before an injury than after one.”


Generally, an invitee is one who enters upon the premises of another for a purpose connected with the business conducted on the land, or where it can reasonably be said that the visit may confer a business, commercial, monetary, or the tangible benefit to the land owner.

Under South Carolina law there are two types of invitees: the public invitee and the business visitor. See Crocker v. Barr, 305 S.C. 406, 409 S.E.2d 368 (1991); Shipes v. Piggly Wiggly St. Andrews, Inc., 269 S.C. 479, 238 S.E.2d 167 (1977); 

Public Invitees

A public invitee is a member of the public who is invited to enter or remain on the land, because the land is held open to the public for some purpose. See Creech v. South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Res. Dep’t, 328 S.C. 24, 491 S.E.2d 571 (1997); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 332(2) (1965).

Business Visitors

If you are on the property to transact business with the owner of the property, then you may be business visitor. If you are on the property for your own business which has some pecuniary benefit to the landowner then a court may consider you a business visitor. See Wintersteen v. Food Lion, Inc., 344 S.C. 32, 542 S.E.2d 728 (2001).

If you are an invitee this means that the owner of the property owes you a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition, or to warn of hidden or concealed dangers. If you go to a Walmart or other retail store, you are an invitee. 

There is no requirement for absolute safety even for invitees. There can be no guarantee that an accident will never happen. The sole duty the owner owes you if you are invitee is to exercise “reasonable care.” This means if the owner acts reasonably or with due care and warns you of any hidden defects then they have met their burden.

You have to ask one question: 1. Would a reasonable person have been aware of an injury risk? If no, there is no liability. Callander v. Charleston Doughnut Corp., 305 S.C. 123, 406 S.E.2d 361 (1991).


A licensee is a visitor who goes upon the premises of another with the consent of the landowner in pursuit of the visitor’s purpose. A social guest is also a licensee.

The key element of a licensee is that he enters the property for his benefit. Another example of a licensee is a person given implied consent to cross the premises for his own benefit. See Frankel v. Kurtz, 239 F. Supp. 713 (D.S.C. 1965) (social guest is licensee; as such, he enters premises by virtue of the possessor’s consent).

South Carolina Courts have found the following individuals to be licensees, where he entered premises:

  • to seek a favor,
  • to make inquiries or ask directions,
  • to do volunteer work,
  • to use recreational facilities without asking specific permission,
  • to recover an item of personal property left on the premises,
  • to obtain some article of value given to the licensee by the occupant, or
  • while chasing his dog.

See Frankel v. Kurtz, 239 F. Supp. 713 (D.S.C. 1965)(social guest is licensee; as such, he enters premises by virtue of the possessor’s consent); Anderson, S.C. Requests to Charge – Civil, 31-11.

There is no requirement that the property owner make the premises safe for the licensee. The duty owed to a licensee is narrow. A landowner must use reasonable care to discover the licensee and prevent him from sustaining harm while on the premises. A landowner is only required to share with the licensee knowledge of the dangerous conditions or activities on the land. The fact that guest may be rendering a minor incidental service to the host does not change the relationship between them as landowner and licensee. 

See: Frankel v. Kurtz, 239 F. Supp. 713 (D.S.C. 1965)(social guest is licensee; as such, he enters premises by virtue of the possessor’s consent).

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