Every day all across the country people are injured when they fall in stores and businesses due to some kind of hazardous and dangerous condition. These Premises Liability cases can be some of the most difficult to win in Oklahoma. Premises owners or employee owe a duty of reasonable and ordinary care to protect invitees from hidden dangers that the owner knows or should know about. Invitees are those with wither express or implied invitation to come onto the property for the mutual benefit of the visitor and owner. This includes you going to your friend’s house for a barbeque, going to the grocery store or the mall to shop.
Injuries are often caused by slipping on slick
or wet surfaces or tripping over some object that you did not see. The
main defense in these cases is whether or not the dangerous condition was
"Open and Obvious" to the visitor. The issue in
open-and-obvious cases is lack of duty of the owner not the negligence or assumption
of risk of the visitor. The
owner's duty includes warning of dangers known to the owner but unlikely to be
discovered by the visitor. The
easiest way to prove your case is when the owner actually creates the hazardous
or dangerous condition that causes your injury because it eliminates one of
their main defenses.
Just because you did not see the condition that caused you to fall does not mean that it was a hidden danger. Often times the condition that caused the fall can be open-and-obvious like a spilled chocolate milkshake on a white floor, or a big hole or an orange extension cord, etc. The visitor who honestly did not see it can still be prevented from recovering from the owner because they weren't paying attention to where they were going. Moreover, under Oklahoma Law it is a question of whether the hazard or danger is open-and-obvious not whether the object itself is open and obvious.
Also keep in mind the injured plaintiff has the burden of proof in all Oklahoma cases. The Plaintiff must establish not only that the condition was a hidden danger but that the owner breached their duty to protect them from it. This involves establishing that the owner actually knew about the condition or that the owner should have known about the condition in the exercise of ordinary care. The difficulty can show up when the injured Plaintiff has no evidence of how the dangerous condition got there or how long it had been there.
For example: if Mom brings her two year old into the grocery store and he spills his water all over the floor in the vegetable department and you come walking by two minutes later and slip on the water. It will be difficult to establish that the owner is liable because you cannot prove that the owner or any of the employees knew about the spill or that they had enough time to discover the spill and protect you from it.
The bottom line is that all of the different circumstances of each case must be examined to determine if the open-and-obvious defense or other defenses will prevent the visitor from recovering for personal injuries and damages. The experienced attorneys at Lawter & Associates have handled hundreds of slip and fall cases in Oklahoma with great success.
Tue, July 21, 2009
by Matthew Reinstein filed under