Jeffrey Behm And Eric Miller Urge The Vermont Supreme Court To Abolish The Business Invitee/Licensee Distinction In Vermont’s Premises Liability Law

In Demag v. Better Power Equipment, Inc. (App. Docket No. 2013-120) Jeffrey Behm and Eric Miller urged the Supreme Court to abolish the business invitee/licensee distinction in Vermont’s law governing a business’s liability for the condition of its premises.  Eric Miller argued the case before the Court on December 3, 2013.

Rodney Demag was seriously injured when he fell into an open manhole located in the Defendant’s parking lot.  The manhole cover had been dislodged during snowplowing.  The appeal challenged the trial court’s summary judgment rulings that Demag was a licensee and not an invitee of the Defendant business, and thus the Defendant did not owe Demag a duty of care with respect to the condition of its premises. In addition to challenging the trial court’s rulings that Plaintiff was not an invitee and the Defendant was not actively negligent in plowing its parking lot, the appeal urged the Court to change its centuries-old premises liability law and require business owners to accord the same duty of reasonable care to both invitees and licensees with respect to the condition of the business premises.