Farrell v. Bonner, 424 Pa. 301, 227 A. 2d 683 (1967).
A possessor of land owes a somewhat higher duty to a business invitee than to a licensee. To a business invitee, the possessor owes the duty to exercise reasonable care to make the premises safe for him, or to warn of dangers which are known to the possessor or which the possessor should have became aware of in the exercise of reasonable care, and which are unknown to the invitee. Stark v. Lehigh Foundries, 388 Pa. 1, 130 A. 2d 123 (1957); Argo v. Goodstein, supra. To a licensee, on the other hand, the possessor of land owes the duty to warn of a dangerous condition only if the possessor has knowledge of it and realizes that the condition involves an unreasonable risk of harm to the licensee and that the licensee is not likely to discover its existence. Davies v. McDowell Nat. Bank, 407 Pa. 209, 180 A. 2d 21 (1962).
The difference between the duty owed to a business invitee and to a licensee lies in the possessor's duty to the business invitee to exercise reasonable care, both to make the premises safe, and to discover and make known dangers which a reasonable inspection would disclose. Essentially, the difference boils down to the duty to inspect.
At the outset, it should be pointed out that the court was not free from doubt as to whether plaintiff's status should have been declared, as a matter of law, to be that of a business invitee. It was finally determined, in an excess of caution, to submit the issue to the jury to decide (see N.T. 157). In the view which I take of this case, however, the question of status is not significant. As noted above, the duty owed to business invitee and licensee differs essentially in the duty to inspect. Consequently, unless there is a basis for a finding of breach of duty for failure to make known that which a reasonable inspection of the premises would have disclosed, the question of status was inconsequential and the error, if any, in submitting the issue of status to the jury was harmless.
Whether there was a basis for finding that defendant had breached a duty to inspect, depends, in turn, on which party had the burden of proof. Counsel for plaintiff conceded at oral argument on these motions that he had not offered any evidence as to what would have constituted a reasonable inspection and what such reasonable inspection would have disclosed. If it was plaintiff's burden to adduce such evidence, there was a failure of proof on that score, leaving as the sole basis of liability, defendant's failure to warn of a condition of which it had knowledge, as opposed to that which reasonable inspection would have disclosed.
Plaintiff has cited two cases which he contends establish the proposition that it is defendant's burden to come forward with evidence as to reasonable inspection. The cases are Schell v. Miller North Broad Storage Co., Inc., 157 Pa. Super. 101, 42 A. 2d 180 (1944), aff'd per curiam, 353 Pa. 319, 45 A. 2d 53 (1946), and Skeen v. Stanley Co. of America, 362 Pa. 174, 66 A. 2d 774 (1949). The Schell case involved a bailment contract which provided
"The bailee shall be responsible for exercise of ordinary diligence and care in . . . storage . . . but not liable for loss or damage occasioned by . . . fire . . . "