Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Court Finds That Plaintiff's Claims Are Barred By Open and Obvious Doctrine

A U-Boat

In the case of Doundas v. Redner’s Market, Inc., No. 2020-CV-1747 (C.P. Leh. Co. May 9, 2022 Pavlack, J.), the court entered summary judgment in favor of a Defendant supermarket after finding the Defendant was not liable for the alleged personal injuries suffered by a Plaintiff while a business invitee in the Defendant’s store given that the condition involved was allegedly open and obvious and would be recognized by a reasonable person in the position of the Plaintiff, exercising normal perception, intelligence and judgment.

According to the Opinion, while the Plaintiff was in the Defendant supermarket, there was a “u-boat,” that is, a cart used to stock shelves, positioned in close proximity to the refrigerators in the dairy aisle.

According to the Plaintiff, when she took a step to get between the u-boat and the refrigerator door to get an item, her foot got caught under the u-boat, causing her to fall to the ground.

The Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that the store was negligent and caused the Plaintiff to fall and be injured. The Plaintiff alleged that the store created an unreasonable risk of harm when the store employee positioned a u-boat in a dangerous manner because the position of the u-boat allegedly funneled patrons, including the Plaintiff, towards and against the refrigerators and that caused her foot to go underneath the u-boat, which allegedly led to her fall.

The defense filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the condition was open and obvious and that, therefore, the store did not owe the Plaintiff any duty in this regard as a matter of law.

According to the Opinion, the record more specifically revealed that the Plaintiff attempted on multiple times to retrieve yogurt out of the refrigerator but that the door would only partially open because of the position of the u-boat. As such, the court concluded from the record that the Plaintiff was aware of, and understood, the position of the u-boat. The record also confirmed that the Plaintiff admitted that she had noticed the u-boat from the time she began walking down the dairy aisle and walked up to it.

The court found from the evidence that the u-boat and its position was therefore known and obvious to the Plaintiff. The court additionally found that any risk related to the u-boat or its position would be apparent to a reasonable person because a reasonable person would understand that a temporary cart could pose a risk if a person walks so close to the cart that she came into contact with it.

As such, the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment was granted under the doctrine of an open and obvious condition.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Aug. 23, 2022).

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