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You Slipped. You Fell. Now What?

premises liability attorney in huntsville alabamaEarlier this year, the Alabama Supreme Court released an opinion called Barnwell v. CLP Corporation. The case concerned a slip and fall incident at a McDonald’s. This is one of the latest cases where the Alabama Supreme Court refreshes our memories on some of the law surrounding slip and falls, which makes this case worthwhile to review.

What Happened?

Mr. Barnwell was visiting a McDonald’s on April 25, 2013.  He explained that after he went to use the restroom and while he was walking to the food counter, he slipped and fell. The surveillance videos did also show an employee mopping the floor ahead of time. Barnwell ended up suing the company that owned that particular McDonald’s—CLP—for negligence. One of the arguments that CLP made was that even if Barnwell slipped and fell, the dangerous condition that led to the slip and fall was something that was “open and obvious,” which is further discussed below.

The Law

Under Alabama law, there are three types of people that may end up on the land or property of another:

  • Trespassers,
  • Licensees, and
  • Invitees.

The landowner owes different duties of care to each of these kinds of people. The landowner owes the least amount of care to the trespasser, but the most amount of care to the invitee.

In the Barnwell case, Barnwell was an invitee. An invitee is usually somebody from the public or a business visitor who is coming onto the other person’s land or property. The landowner has to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition for the invitee. If there is something unsafe on the premises, such as dangers or hidden defects, and the landowner knows about them, but they are hidden or unknown to the invitee, then the landowner has the duty to let the invitee know about them, as well.

If something is “open and obvious,” however, then the landowner does not have duty to let the invitee know, since the danger should be apparent. As the court in Barnwell reminds us, analyzing whether something is “open and obvious” does not require us to ask whether the invitee did notice the danger, but rather whether the invitee should have noticed the danger.  Reaching an answer to that question is something that requires a lot of fact-analysis and differs from case to case.

In Barnwell, the Court concluded that there were inconsistencies in the evidence, so the Court sent the case back to the lower court for further analysis. However, if the evidence was not inconsistent, and if a jury or other fact-finder had determined that the spill, which caused Barnwell to slip, was something that he or anybody else should have noticed, then Barnwell likely would lose his case. This would be especially true if the spill was something like ketchup, mustard, or even dark-colored soda. If, however, the spill was something like water, then there would have been a good chance that the fact-finder could have determined that the danger was not “open and obvious,” and CLP did not abide by its duty to Barnwell’s invitee status, which could have made it easier for Barnwell to win his case.

Contact a Premises Liability Attorney Today

After a slip and fall on somebody else’s property, putting together a case against the owner of that property can get tricky, especially since each piece of evidence may be relevant. Unlike what happened in Barnwell, the experienced Alabama premises liability attorneys want to make sure you have the smoothest experience in your case. Contact us today and let us help you get the relief you deserve.

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