As a general rule, landowners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land. An invitation may be an explicit one, such as an invitation to join a neighbor for dinner, or it may be implicit given the circumstances, such as a customer who visits a business. In either case, a duty arises on the part of the property owner.
The extent of the duty owed to a visitor depends largely on the relationship between the two parties and the purpose of the visit. For example, a business invitee, i.e., a customer, is owed the highest duty. When a landowner fails to take the necessary precautions to ensure their property is safe, they may be held liable through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.
Of course, not all injuries occurring on another party’s property will result in the landowner being liable for the injuries. As a recent case illustrates, if a court determines that the hazard causing the plaintiff’s fall was “open and obvious,” the landowner does not owe the visitor a duty to warn them of the hazard.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a customer at the defendant hardware store. After the plaintiff purchased several rolls of insulation, he was instructed to pick up the rolls in one of the defendant’s self-service warehouses. The plaintiff and his son drove to the warehouse, where they found the stacked rolls of insulation.
The plaintiff explained that the rolls were stacked very high, and they looked to him to be unstable. However, the plaintiff determined that they could safely take rolls of insulation from other, more stable stacks. As the plaintiff and his son loaded the insulation into their truck, the unstable tower fell on top of the plaintiff, injuring his shoulder. The plaintiff did not see it at the time, but there was a sign indicating that an employee could be called to assist customers in loading their merchandise.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit, claiming that the defendant hardware store was negligent in the stacking of the insulation. The hardware store argued it did not owe a duty to the plaintiff because the leaning tower of insulation rolls was an open and obvious hazard.
The court agreed with the defendant, finding that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty because the large, unstable stack of insulation was an open and obvious hazard. The court explained that the law assumes that people will take care to avoid obvious hazards, and when someone is injured by an open and obvious hazard, it is not necessarily the landowner’s fault. Here, the court pointed to the plaintiff’s own acknowledgment that the stack seemed unstable and that he intentionally avoided touching it, knowing that it could topple over.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while a customer at a local business, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling all types of Indiana injury claims, and they provide victims and their families with free consultations to discuss their cases. Call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.
Handyman’s Case Against Homeowner Dismissed Based on His Awareness of the Hazard That Caused His Injury, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 5, 2018
Court Strictly Interprets Recreational Use Statute, Rejecting Plaintiff’s Premises Liability Claim, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, February 20, 2018