Legal Memorandum: Landowner's Duty of Care to a Trespasser

Issue: Under Washington law, is a trespasser a licensee to whom an owner owes a duty to exercise reasonable care?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Landowner's duty; Duty of reasonable care; Trespasser
Jurisdiction: Washington
Cited Cases: 68 Wash. 2d 943; 724 P.2d 991; 85 Wash. 2d 685; 538 P.2d 517; 413 So. 2d 875; 406 So. 2d 1143; 668 S.W.2d 536
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 342
Date: 04/01/2001

           Washington has maintained the common-law distinctions of invitee, licensee and trespasser.  Younce v. Ferguson, 106 Wash. 2d 658, 724 P.2d 991, 995 (1986).  In Memel v. Reimer, 85 Wash. 2d 685, 689, 538 P.2d 517, 519 (1975), the Washington Supreme Court replaced the willful, wanton misconduct standard of care toward licensees with a duty to exercise reasonable care where there is a known dangerous condition on the property which the owner can reasonably anticipate the licensee will not discover.  Memel adopted the standard of care in the Restatement § 342:

Dangerous Conditions Known to Possessor


A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to licensees by a condition on the land if, but only if,



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