Before Prather, C.j., Smith And Waller, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Prather, Chief Justice, For The Court
DORIS B. GRAHAM v. HERSHELL PULLENS AND DARLENE PULLENS
THIS OPINION IS NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION AND MAY NOT BE CITED, PURSUANT TO M.R.A.P. 35-A
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. R.I. PRICHARD
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PEARL RIVER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY
DISPOSITION AFFIRMED - 6/18/98
I. STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE
On December 11, 1994, Doris Graham spent the night at her daughter Darlene Pullens' mobile home on her daughter's invitation. The next morning, while exiting the home with Hershell Pullens, her son-in-law, Graham slipped on ice covering the top step of the stairs leading from the home. Graham filed suit against the Pullens, alleging that she was an invitee at their home and that they had failed to exercise the level of care owed to an invitee under the circumstances. Graham argues that the Pullens were aware that the stairs leading from their home "wobbled" but that they negligently failed to warn her of this danger. Graham also argues that Hershell had notice of the ice covering the steps but that he negligently failed to warn her of this fact.
On December 10, 1996, the Circuit Court of Pearl River County entered an order finding Graham to have held that status of licensee rather than invitee at the time of the accident. Based in large part upon this ruling, the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the Pullens. Graham filed a notice of appeal on January 7, 1997.
A. Whether the lower court erred in granting summary judgment when there were present genuine issues of material fact.
This Court employs a de novo standard in reviewing a trial court's granting of a summary judgment motion. Summary judgment is proper when there exists no genuine issue of material fact and judgment may be entered as a matter of law. In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, this Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Cunningham v. Lanier , 589 So.2d 133 (Miss. 1991). The facts of the present case are largely undisputed, and the primary issue in the present appeal is one of law. The primary issue herein involves the issue of whether Doris Graham held the status of licensee or invitee during the period in which she was visiting at her daughter's home.
The determination of whether a plaintiff held the status of an invitee or a licensee at the time of an accident has a significant impact on the legal duty owed to the plaintiff by the owner of the premises. A landowner/invitor owes an invitee a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep his premises in a reasonably safe condition. If the invitor knows of, or by the exercise of reasonable care should have known of, a dangerous condition which is not readily apparent to an invitee, then the invitor is under a duty to warn the invitee of such condition. Clark v. Moore Memorial United Methodist Church , 538 So.2d 760 (Miss. 1989). The standard of care owed by a landowner to a licensee, by contrast, is merely to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring the licensee. There is one recognized, exception, however, in that ...