Idaho Real Estate & Development Law Update: Robinson v. Mueller

Legal Alert

In the case of Robinson v. Mueller released April 1, 2014, the Idaho Court of Appeals covered some new ground and revisited some old ground.

New Ground: 

“[A]s between a tenant’s social guest and the landlord--the landlord owes a duty only to the extent that, if the landlord voluntarily undertakes repairs on the premises, the landlord must exercise reasonable care in performing such repairs.”

Where a tenant’s social guest (a licensee) does not predicate her claim on, or produce evidence of, the deficiency of any repair actually done by the landlord, the landlord owed no duty to her.

The landlord did not have a duty to warn a tenant’s social guest of dangerous conditions on the property. The landlord did have a duty to warn the tenant of the dangerous condition because the tenant is an invitee. “While the tenant may have had a duty to warn its social guest of the [dangerous condition], the landlord did not share in this duty.”

Old Ground: 

“The duty owed by owners and possessors of land depends on the status of the person injured on the land--that is, whether he or she is an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.” Ball v. City of Blackfoot, 152 Idaho 673, 677, 273 P.3d 1266, 1270 (2012).

“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 other tangible benefit to the landowner.” Holzheimer v. Johannesen, 125 Idaho 397, 400, 871 P.2d 814, 817 (1994). “A landowner owes an invitee the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition or to warn of hidden or concealed dangers.” Id. The duty of a landlord owed to invitees is “a duty to exercise reasonable care in light of all the circumstances.” Stephens v. Stearns, 106 Idaho 249, 678 P.2d 41 (1984)

“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.” Holzheimer, 125 Idaho at 400, 871 P.2d at 817; Evans v. Park, 112 Idaho 400, 401, 732 P.2d 369, 370 (Ct. App. 1987). “Likewise, a social guest is also a licensee.” Holzheimer, 125 Idaho at 400, 871 P.2d at 817. “The duty owed to a licensee is narrow. A landowner is only required to share with the licensee knowledge of dangerous conditions or activities on the land.” Evans, 112 Idaho at 401, 732 P.2d at 370. “But ordinary negligence allowing an unsafe condition or activity on the property is insufficient, by itself, to impose liability to a licensee. Keller v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 105 Idaho 649, 652-53, 671 P.2d 1112, 1115-16 (Ct. App. 1983), vacated on other grounds, 107 Idaho 593, 691 P.2d 1208 (1984).

“[A] tenant or lessee, having control of the premises is deemed, so far as third parties are concerned, to be the owner, and in case of injury to third parties occasioned by the condition or use of the premises, the general rule is that the tenant or lessee may be liable for failure to keep the premises in repair”. Harrison v. Taylor, 115 Idaho 588, 596, 768 P.2d 1321, 1329 (1989).

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