Generally, a child social guest is treated as a subclass of licensee, and not as an invitee[i]. A social guest is one who has received a social invitation. S/he enters the premises with the permission of an owner or occupant, for his/her purpose[ii].
When compared to a business invitee, the duty of care owed by an owner or occupant to a child social guest or licensee is of a lesser degree. Because a business invitee is an invitee for commercial or business related purposes of the owner, while a child social guest is not an invitee and the purposes for which s/he enters the land may be personal as well as for the owner’s benefit.
However, an owner or occupier owes the same duty of care to a child social guest as to a licensee[iii]. The duty owed by an owner or occupant to a child social guest includes:
- duty to refrain from active wrongdoing;
- duty to warn about dangers known to an owner or occupant and not likely to be discovered by the child social guest; and
- duty to use reasonable or ordinary care to prevent injury to a child social guest.
However, the duty of reasonable care owed by an owner or possessor of real property to an infant social guest will not apply in cases where the infant social guest is accompanied by a parent or by someone to whom the parent has entrusted the child[iv].
According to the criminal code, administration of liquor to child social guest amounts to a breach of duty. Hence, adults owe a duty of care to their minor guests that they should not serve any alcohol to a minor even in small quantities. In order to constitute a breach of duty of care, it is not necessary that alcohol must be administered in an amount sufficient to intoxicate the minor or infant[v].
[i] Wolfson v. Chelist, 284 S.W.2d 447 (Mo. 1955).
[ii] Cook v. Smith, 33 S.W.3d 548 (Mo. Ct. App. 2000).
[iii] Bragg v. Missroon, 186 Ga. App. 803 (Ga. Ct. App. 1988).
[iv] County of Fond Du Lac v. Derksen, 2004 WI App 1 (Wis. Ct. App. 2003).
[v] Estate of Mullis by Dixon v. Monroe Oil Co., 349 N.C. 196 (N.C. 1998).