While all landowners and business owners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land, there are limitations to this duty. One of the most common limitations that courts impose on a landowner’s duty to keep his premises safe involves dangerous conditions that are readily apparent to guests.
The rationale behind this limitation is that an injured party should not be permitted to seek compensation for their injuries if they were aware of the dangerous condition that ultimately caused their injuries. A recent case illustrates how a state appellate court was asked to apply this limitation on a landlord’s duty, but it declined to do so.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a college student. On a clear and sunny day, she was dropped off at school by her father. She entered the building where her first class was and attended class. During her first class, the weather outside changed, and it began to rain. However, the plaintiff was not aware of the change in the weather because the classroom where she was did not have any windows.
After the plaintiff finished her first class, she then went to her second class, which was taught in the same building. This classroom also had no windows. When her second class was finished, the plaintiff began walking to her third classroom. However, on the way, she slipped and fell in a puddle of standing water. As it turns out, fellow students had tracked in the water as they entered the building.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the school, arguing that it was negligent in allowing the water to accumulate in the hallway. The school asked that the court dismiss the case against it, arguing that the plaintiff should have been on notice that the standing water was present and should have taken appropriate precautions herself. The trial court agreed, looking at previous case-law, and dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the plaintiff asked the court to reverse the lower court’s decision, arguing that unlike the plaintiff in the previously decided case, she had no knowledge that it was raining outside. The court agreed with the distinction the plaintiff was making, finding that the rationale behind the lower court’s decision was misplaced. The court explained that, as a general rule, a plaintiff should be on notice that the floor may be wet when it is raining; however, when a plaintiff is unaware that it was raining, they cannot be on notice of potentially slippery conditions. Since the plaintiff’s classrooms did not have windows, and she did not know that the weather had changed while she was in class, the court held it was improper to find that the standing water was an obvious hazard.
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia premises liability lawsuit. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Charles B. Roberts, P.C. have extensive experience representing injured Virginians in a wide range of personal injury cases, including slip-and-fall cases. Call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Virginia personal injury attorney.
See More Blog Posts:
Court Determines a Plaintiff’s Alleged Negligence Is Not Relevant in Crashworthiness Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 2, 2017.
Tire Manufacturer Withholds Evidence, Although Court-Imposed Fine Reversed, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 10, 2017.