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The degree of care a property owner owes the public

A recent post on this blog discussed the fact that owners of land, including owners of homes and businesses, have a duty under Illinois law to protect those who come onto their property from any hazards that might be present there. For example, a failure to remove ice and snow from the entrance to a business could lead to a serious injury, and the business owner has the obligation to act reasonably to prevent that sort of injury from happening.

Traditionally, businesses and homeowners owed different degrees of care depending on the status of person who was visiting the premises. For example, an owner owed more care to a person specifically invited on to the premises as opposed to someone who simply had permission, or, in legal language, a license to be there.

Through a statute, Illinois has abolished this distinction. Today, business owners in Illinois must take reasonable care to protect anyone who has permission to be on their land from dangers like wet floors, uneven surfaces or falling objects.

The law did not, however, change the traditional obligation toward trespassers who do not have permission to be on the landowner's property. With respect to trespassers, a business owner need only refrain from "willful and wanton" conduct that would be likely to hurt them.

Since the vast majority of Illinois residents who visit a home or business in this state do so with permission, those who do have the misfortune of getting injured while on the premises of another may be able to hold the owner accountable for not making his or her premises reasonably safe.

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