Torts II, Pages 510–512

Barmore v. Elmore

Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, May 2, 1980

Facts:

Plaintiff came to the defendants' home to discuss business about their Masonic Lodge. Defendant's son, also a defendant, came into the room, said "You've been talking about me," and advanced toward plaintiff with a steak knife. Plaintiff fled the house while the senior defendant restrained his son, but he soon broke free, chased plaintiff down outside, and stabbed him several times in the chest. His father then called for help.

Procedural History:

Circuit court directed a verdict for defendants.

Issue:

Was defendant liable for his son attacking plaintiff in the defendants' home?

Plaintiff's Arguments:

  • LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 511, Top

    [D]efendants, as landowners, were negligent in failing to protect [plaintiff] from a dangerous condition upon their premises—namely their son who had a history of mental illness.

  • Illinois court have recognized that transacting the business of a fraternal organization grants one the status of an invitee.

Rules:

  • LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 511, Paragraph 3

    In order for a person to be classified as an invitee it is sufficient that he go on the land in furtherance of the owner's business. It is not necessary that the invited person gain an advantage by his entry on the land. A social guest is considered a licensee and has been defined as one who enters the premises of the owner by permission, but for the licensee's own purposes.

  • A host must warn a licensee of any hidden dangers he knows that the guest does not, but otherwise a licensee takes the premises as he finds them.

  • A host must take reasonable care in keeping his premises reasonable safe for use by an invitee.

Reasoning:

  • Although plaintiff was primarily there on business, the benefit of this was to the fraternal organization both parties were members of, not to defendant. It therefore does not grant him invitee status.

  • LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 512

    [T]he evidence so overwhelmingly established that the defendants did not know or have reason to know of the possibility that Thomas, Jr., would commit a criminal act toward plaintiff that no contrary verdict could ever stand. Although they did know their son had a history of mental problems and had been hospitalized several times, and also that approximately 10 years before the present incident their son had been involved in what could be characterized as two or three violent incidents, the length of time which had passed would not give them reason to know that their son would engage in violent behavior in August 1977. This conclusion is buttressed by the fact that plaintiff had previous contact with Thomas, Jr., without incident.

Holding:

No, defendant was not liable for his son attacking plaintiff in the defendants' home. Affirmed.

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