When you are injured on a store or business’ property, there may be several obstacles in your way that potentially block you from success in your premises liability case. One common obstacle is the “open and obvious” rule, which says generally that, if a hazard was something that a reasonable person would have seen, the property owner isn’t liable. The key to winning is finding a way to overcome those hurdles, as one customer at a dollar store recently did in her Louisiana case, getting a renewed chance to pursue the store despite the fact that the hazard that caused her fall was a large box placed on the floor of the store.
The plaintiff was injured while shopping at a dollar store in Bossier City. The store apparently was preparing to re-stock the shelves, since there were “many boxes placed along the floor in each aisle.” The shopper reached for an item on a shelf in the cleaning supplies aisle and, upon stepping back, caught her foot on a box and lost her balance. She struck her shoulder and neck, suffering injuries as a result.
The box that caused the shopper’s fall was roughly three feet wide and two feet tall. The large size of this box was central to the store’s argument in the trial. The store argued that the box was clearly visible, and its presence on the floor of the aisle did not “create an unreasonably dangerous condition.” The trial judge agreed and issued a summary judgment in the store’s favor. The boxes were “open and obvious,” according to the court, so the plaintiff should have seen them, and “it was reasonable to assume that” the plaintiff knew the box that tripped her was there. As a result, the store could not be liable for this injury, the trial judge ruled.
The shopper appealed, and she won. The appeals court rejected the trial court’s reasoning in assuming that the shopper knew that the box that felled her was there. Just because store employees had staged multiple boxes throughout the aisles of the store did not automatically mean that this shopper reasonably should have known that this particular box was where it was. This shopper’s case was similar to one presented by a grocery store shopper from a few years ago. In that 2015 ruling, the appeals court sided with the shopper. In both cases, the shoppers were distracted while reaching for items on store shelves. In both cases, the shoppers lost sight of the boxes at their feet and, as a result, tripped. In scenarios like those, the boxes do not qualify as “open and obvious,” meaning that, just as in the grocery shopper’s case, the dollar store was not entitled to summary judgment, and the shopper was allowed to proceed with pursuing her claim for recovery.
This shopper tripped over a box that was three feet wide and two feet tall and sitting in the floor of an aisle of a store. Some might look at those facts and think that it’s reasonable to assume that this box must be “open and obvious.” This case teaches that what may seem like a reasonable assumption to a layperson may not actually be correct under the law. Never just assume that you don’t have a case. Talk to counsel first. The hardworking and skillful Louisiana premises liability attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm have been assisting injured people for many years, helping them pursue results and the recovery they deserve. Our team can help you analyze your circumstances and help you determine if you have a case, even if you may have assumed that you didn’t.
For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 1-888-89-CARDONE (1-888-892-2736).
More Blog Posts:
Pursuing a Premises Liability Case Against a Public Entity in Louisiana, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Jan. 22, 2016
‘Open and Obvious’ Hazards and Premises Liability Cases in Louisiana, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, June 29, 2015