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What Does “Open & Obvious” Mean in Premises Liability Cases?

Man walking on slippery floor

The general idea of premises liability law is that a property owner or controller has the responsibility to protect guests, visitors, customers, and others from unreasonable dangers. Everyone from store managers and homeowners to apartment renters all has this responsibility in some form and to some extent.

There is a notable exception to general premises liability rules, though: “open and obvious.” In some texts, this rule is called the open and obvious defense since it serves to defend a property owner from liability.

The open and obvious rule has many forms, usually changing slightly from state-to-state. The overarching idea is that a property owner is not liable – or at least, less liable – for injuries caused by a danger that is both “open and obvious.” In other words, if a visitor should have been able to quickly identify the problem and easily take steps to avoid it, then they could be found liable for their own injuries, even if the property owner or controller did nothing to warn them about it.

Open & Obvious Hazard – Example

A jar of rainbow-colored gumballs has spilled in the center of a grocery store aisle. The entire aisle is about 50-feet long, and the spill is in the center 10-feet. While shopping, a customer walks down the aisle with the spill, seems to ignore the multicolored spill taking up the entire center of the aisle, slips, and falls.

In this situation, the store owner could likely use the “open and obvious” defense to escape some or all liability. The spill was not only colored brightly so it should catch the average person’s attention right away, but it was also in the center of the aisle, meaning a shopper would have to walk 20 feet before actually reaching it.

Although, there is no guarantee that the open and obvious rule would excuse the property owner in this situation. Some landowners have a constant responsibility to protect people on their property, even from clear dangers. Retail store owners are often assigned this responsibility under premises liability law. Furthermore, shoppers can be reasonably distracted by looking at their phones or grocery lists, so they could potentially not see a spill until they stepped in it, no matter how obvious it seems under normal circumstances.

Does Your Premises Liability Claim Concern an Open & Obvious Hazard?

Were you hurt on someone else’s property in San Jose or the Bay Area, but you think they might argue that the hazard was “open and obvious?” Start building and strengthening your claim with professional legal help from the attorneys of Habbas & Associates. We have nearly 200 years of collective legal experience to put to good use when managing your premises liability claim. During a free initial consultation, we can help determine if your claim is valid due to the nature of the hazard that caused your accident, like a slip and fall accident.

Want to know more? Please dial (888) 387-4053 to connect with our team.

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