North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Trip and Fall Supermarket Case based on Open and Obvious Doctrine

When it comes to accidents that are due to another person’s negligence, slip and fall cases are one of the most common ways that Charlotte residents can find themselves experiencing serious harm and inconvenience in their lives. The rules regarding premises liability injuries are somewhat complicated, which is why it is important to have a diligent Charlotte personal injury attorney to assist you with all phases of your claim including ensuring that you receive the full amount of compensation that you are owed.

In a recent claim, the plaintiff appealed an order granting summary judgment for the defendant property owner. The plaintiff sued the property owner after reportedly tripping on a crate of tomatoes that was allegedly protruding into the shopping aisle, according to the plaintiff’s complaint. The defendant based its motion for summary judgment on the theory that the danger was open and obvious and that the defendant is not liable under premises liability law for open and obvious dangers.

A negligence claim requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant owed him or her a duty, failed to exercise appropriate care according to that duty and that the breach was the direct and foreseeable cause of any injuries that the plaintiff sustained. Under North Carolina law, a property owner owes all lawful visitors a duty to act with reasonable care. When it comes to a business owner, that duty requires the owner to ensure that the premises is reasonably safe and to provide warnings about any hidden dangers or unsafe conditions that are capable of being identified during a reasonable inspection.

According to the evidence in the record, the plaintiff entered the store for the purpose of finding collard greens. The plaintiff was directed down an aisle where he tripped on the tomatoes. The evidence also showed that the plaintiff had turned around and walked back up the same aisle after asking a store employee where to find collard greens, which means he had walked by the tomatoes on his way to ask the employee a question.

Based on this, the appellate court concluded that the crate of tomatoes, although protruding into the aisle, was an open and obvious condition that the plaintiff should have identified on his own. As a result, the court concluded that the store did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care and that the trial court properly entered summary judgment in the defendant’s favor.

The appellate court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that even if the crates were open and obvious the aisle was open to the public and could not be navigated with reasonable care. According to the court, the evidence illustrated that the crates could have been avoided with reasonable care which was demonstrated by the fact that the plaintiff had walked down the aisle safely to ask a question.

If you were injured on someone else’s property in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more about your potential rights and whether we can assist you in asserting them contact the Charlotte personal injury attorneys of Maurer Law as soon as possible at 1-844-817-8058 or contact us online to get started.