Mallet v. Pickens

In Mallet v. Pickens, 206 W. Va. 145, 522 S.E.2d 436 (W. Va. 1999), the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia decided to follow the "modern trend" of only maintaining a distinction between trespassers and others: "Our research reveals that at least 25 jurisdictions have abolished or largely abandoned the licensee/invitee distinction. Among these 25 jurisdictions that have broken with past tradition, at least 17 have eliminated or fundamentally altered the distinction. Another eight of the 25 have eliminated even the trespasser distinction. And, of those retaining the old scheme, judges in at least five of those states have authored vigorous dissents or concurrences arguing for change." (Mallet, 522 S.E.2d at 444-45.) Expressly, the court stated: "Today we hold that the common law distinction between licensees and invitees is hereby abolished; landowners or possessors now owe any non-trespassing entrant a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. We retain our traditional rule with regard to a trespasser, that being that a landowner or possessor need only refrain from willful or wanton injury. Though our decision might seem a radical departure from past cases, in its basic philosophy it is not." (Mallet, 522 S.E.2d at 446.)