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Vermont Supreme Court Heightens Duty Owed in Certain Premises Liability Cases

The Vermont Supreme Court recently established a new rule in Demag v. Better Power Equipment, Inc., 2014 VT 78, — Vt. —-, — A.3d —-, that a landowner or occupier owes a duty of reasonable care to all “lawful entrants” to his property, thereby abolishing a decades-old distinction between “invitees” and “licensees” in which the latter was owed a lower standard of care. With the Demag ruling, Vermont joins the slight majority of states who have abolished the licensee-invitee distinction. The Court explicitly limited its holding to “lawful entrants,” and did not address the question of whether the duty of care owed to trespassers would also be heightened to a reasonable standard of care.