Plaintiff was shopping at a Big Lots store. She walked down an aisle and turned at the end, whereupon she tripped over a wooden pallet that was just around the corner. The pallet was about three-square feet in size and protruded about three feet into the adjacent aisle, and was on wheels. After she bumped into the pallet, she jumped onto the pallet and the pallet then rolled out from under her, causing her to fall to the floor and injure herself. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s premises liability claim against the store, holding that because the danger was open and obvious no liability can lie.
The Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of her case. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the plaintiff’s claim that the pallet was hidden or camouflaged, which plaintiff argued would take it out of the open and obvious defense. The Court of Appeals noted that it was impossible for the pallet not to have been visible to a person approaching the end of the aisle before reaching the pallet itself. The pallet stuck out three feet, halfway across the intersecting aisle. The color of the pallet contrasted with the color of the floor. The only possible way a reasonable person would not notice the pallet is if the person was not exercising ordinary care. There were no special aspects to the case, which is a requirement to take the case out of the open and obvious danger category.
What This Means For Plaintiffs:
Although a premises liability claim can exist if an open and obvious condition has special aspects which make it effectively unavoidable or pose an unreasonably high risk of severe harm despite the open and obvious nature, this exception will not apply just because an object is around the corner and thus partially hidden.
You can view the entire opinion here.
Authored by Barbara A. Assendelft