Understanding Plaintiff Status Under Colorado’s Premises Liability Act

Categories Premises Liability

Picture of man slip and fall on stairsWhen an individual is injured or killed on another person or entity’s property as a result of an unsafe condition, the controlling law in the state of Colorado is C.R.S. §13-21-115 Actions against Landowners, often referred to as the Colorado Premises Liability Act.

Many elements need to be evaluated in a premises liability case. One of the most important factors in determining liability in a Colorado premises liability case is the plaintiff’s classification in the case. The question concerns the reason that the plaintiff was on the land where he or she became injured.

Under Colorado premises liability laws, a person injured on property falls into one of three categories related to the reason they were on the land in the first place. The injured party can be a “trespasser,” a “licensee,” or an “invitee.” Each category has their own level of duty of care. In addition, each category has different requirements to prove a claim for damages under the Colorado Premises Liability Act.


An invitee is a person who enters or remains on a property belonging to another person or entity while transacting business. The person has a mutually beneficial relationship with the property owner. Property owners owe invitees the highest level of duty of care, and invitees generally have the best chance of obtaining compensation for a premises liability claim.

CRS §13-21-115(5)(a) defines an invitee as “a person who enters or remains on the land of another to transact business in which the parties are mutually interested or who enters or remains on such land in response to the landowner’s express or implied representation that the public is requested, expected, or intended to enter or remain.”

Typically, invitees are customers or tenants. For example, when you shop at a grocery store or eat at a restaurant, you are considered an invitee. If you are renting an apartment, you are an invitee of the property owner. If you buy a ticket for a movie at a theater, you are an invitee if you are harmed at the theater.

Under the Premises Liability Act, CRS §13-21-115(3)(c)(I), “an invitee may recover for damages caused by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he actually knew or should have known.”

However, under CRS §13-21-115(3)(c)(2), if you are on land classified as agricultural land or vacant land for tax purposes, even as an invitee, you may only recover “damages caused by a landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he actually knew.”


A licensee is someone who enters or remains on a property with the permission of the property owner. Generally, licensees are social guests. If you were injured as a dinner guest at someone else’s home, you are usually considered a licensee. A property owner owes a licensee a more limited duty of care. These cases can be more difficult to prove legally, so it is important to find a specialist in premises liability cases to help you with your claim.

CRS §13-21-115(5)(b) defines a licensee as “a person who enters or remains on the land of another for the licensee’s own convenience or to advance his own interests, pursuant to the landowner’s permission or consent” and specifically includes “a social guest.”

CRS §13-21-115(3)(b) says that licensees may recover only for damages caused:

  • By the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care with respect to dangers created by the landowner of which the landowner actually knew; or
  • By the landowner’s unreasonable failure to warn of dangers not created by the landowner which are not ordinarily present on property of the type involved and of which the landowner actually knew.

Invitees and licensees may be eligible for compensation after a premises liability accident, especially if the guest was on the property for a business purpose.


A trespasser is only owed a duty of care when intentional harm is at hand. A trespasser enters or remains on the property of another without the property owner’s consent. It is much more difficult for a trespasser to recover damages for an injury under Colorado premises liability law. The exception to this is if injuries or damages were deliberately caused by the property owner.

CRS §13-21-115(5)(c) defines “trespasser” as “a person who enters or remains on the land of another without the landowner’s consent.” Under the Premises Liability Act, §13-21-115(3)(a), “a trespasser may recover only for damages willfully or deliberately caused by the landowner.”

Contact Our Denver Premises Liability Lawyers

If you have been injured on another person or entity’s property, we recommend that you speak to our Denver premises liability lawyers as soon as possible. Your status under the Colorado Premises Liability Act is crucial to succeeding with a claim.

At Dormer Harpring, we can help you determine your status and ensure your rights are fully protected. For more information contact us at (303) 747-4404 or fill out our confidential contact form.

Sean Dormer Named to Super Lawyers Rising Stars List for 2018

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Rated by Super Lawyers Rising Stars Sean Dormer SuperLawyers.comSean Dormer was just selected to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list for 2018.

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. The Rising Stars list recognizes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in each state. To be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less.

Congratulations, Sean!

Sean’s profile on the Super Lawyers website can be found here.

Dormer Harpring Trial Win

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K.C. Harpring and Sean Dormer obtained a plaintiff’s verdict recently in a trial in Boulder District Court against Mark Gauthier of the Ross-Shannon Law firm.

DH’s client was injured in a low-speed rear-end car crash, but he also caused a second (high-speed) crash only four months later. Mark Gauthier was retained by Allstate to represent the at-fault driver in the first crash. Mr. Gauthier argued that the second crash caused the majority of DH’s client’s injuries and requested a complete defense verdict.

Despite a litany of objections by Mr.
Gauthier and numerous unfavorable rulings by the court, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $11,990.03. After the addition of interest and costs, the award will be approximately 15 times Allstate’s initial offer of settlement and almost double its final offer before trial.

“We believed in our client and we wanted a much bigger win,” said Sean after the verdict, “but it feels really good to have a jury find for us in the face of so many obstacles. We owe a lot to our co-workers, friends, and family for helping us so much in getting ready.”

Mr. Gauthier and the Ross-Shannon Law firm have decades of experience representing the financial interests of insurance companies and corporations, and have obtained numerous defense verdicts in similar cases.

DH and the firm’s client are considering whether to appeal the court’s objection rulings, request a new trial, and seek a more full measure of justice.

My Promises – Sean Dormer

Categories TrialsTags

The Trial Lawyer’s College is dedicated to training and educating lawyers and judges who are committed to the jury system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals; the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. In all of its activities, the Trial Lawyer’s College will foster and nourish an open atmosphere of caring for people regardless of their race, age, creed, religion, national origin, physical abilities, gender or sexual orientation.

– The Trial Lawyer’s College Mission Statement


When I got in my car and headed towards Wyoming at the beginning of September, I didn’t know much about The Trial Lawyer’s College (we call it “TLC”). I knew the mission statement. I knew that some of the best trial lawyers in America call themselves Warriors. But I didn’t know what to expect for myself. Continue reading My Promises – Sean Dormer