North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Summary Judgment for Defendant in Trip and Fall Injury Case

If you are injured on another person’s property, you can bring a premises liability claim to recover compensation for your injuries and damages. North Carolina law places certain duties on landowners to ensure that different types of guests are protected from dangers on the property. The level of duty to warn or remedy a dangerous condition that a landowner owes to you depends on the reason that you are visiting the property. As such, premises liability cases can become complicated. The compassionate Charlotte premises liability lawyers at Maurer Law are available to discuss your potential case and how we can assist you.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeal issued an opinion in a case involving a trip and fall injury. The plaintiff was attending a funeral at the defendant’s church. The defendant’s employees asked the plaintiff if he would be able to assist with carrying a casket as part of the ceremony. The plaintiff agreed. He followed the employees through the building, down a flight of steps, and out a back door. The plaintiff and three others carried the casket through the same doorway. The plaintiff was walking sideways to account for the casket when he tripped as he attempted to cross the threshold.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant in the plaintiff’s lawsuit seeking damages. The trial court concluded that the nature of the danger, the steps leading in and out of the doorway, were open and obvious. It noted that the plaintiff had only moments before traveled through the same doorway when exiting the church to retrieve the casket. The plaintiff appealed and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed. It concluded that there were genuine issues of fact regarding whether the nature of the steps leading into the building was an open and obvious danger.

The defendant appealed and the Supreme Court considered the dispute. It reversed the Court of Appeal’s ruling and reinstated the lower court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendant. Although North Carolina law requires landowners to warn visitors of hidden dangers on the property that the landowner knows about or should know about, this duty does not extend to providing warnings regarding open and obvious conditions. A condition is considered open and obvious when a person of ordinary intelligence would be able to detect it. The duty to warn guests about dangers applies to hidden dangers that are known or discoverable to the defendants, the Supreme Court stated. Finally, the Supreme Court stated that it is appropriate for a court to grant summary judgment when the facts support the finding that the danger in question in the lawsuit was open and obvious.

If you were injured on another person’s property, the responsive and experienced Charlotte premises liability lawyers at Maurer Law are standing by to assist you. Our team understands how important it is for you to be treated fairly and to receive the outcome you deserve in a timely fashion. To schedule a free consultation, call us now at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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