Traditionally, someone who owned or occupied real property in Illinois owed a different duty of care to a person who came on to the property, depending on whether the person was an “invitee,” a “licensee” or a “trespasser.” In general, an invitee was a person, such as a business customer, who was invited onto the premises and brought some benefit to the landowner. A licensee was someone, such as a social guest, who had permission to be on the property, but brought no material benefit to the landowner. A trespasser, of course, was someone who did not have permission to be on the property at all. Under the common law, landowners owed the highest duty of care to invitees, a lesser duty to licensees, and virtually no duty to trespassers.
Aside from being complicated, the problem with these distinctions was that an innocent social guest, because he or she was only a “licensee,” could wind up having a harder time than a business customer in claiming compensation for a slip-and-fall accident on the property, even if there were preventable hazardous conditions that contributed to the accident.
Fortunately, in 1995 Illinois legally abolished the distinction between “licensees” and “invitees” with respect to premises liability cases. Now, a person who is lawfully on another person’s property can expect the property owner to exercise reasonable care with respect to keeping the grounds safe and free from hazards. If such a person does get hurt while on another person’s property, he or she can seek compensation.
It is noteworthy, though, that trespassers enter another’s property largely at their own risk in Illinois. A landowner need only refrain from “willful and wanton” conduct that would be likely to hurt a known trespasser.
Illinois law protects all people who lawfully enter another person’s or business’s property by requiring the owner or occupier of the land to use reasonable care in keeping the premises safe. If a Chicago-area resident has been injured while on other’s property, he or she may be able to receive compensation for that injury.