North Carolina Appellate Court Discusses the Open and Obvious Danger Doctrine in Trip and Fall Case

Under certain circumstances, North Carolina law allows someone who is injured on another person’s property due to negligence to recover compensation from the property owner. There are certain things that the injury victim must show before he or she is entitled to compensation and there are defenses available to the defendant that may prevent the owner from being held liable. If you were injured due to an unsafe property, North Carolina premises liability lawyer Jason Burton is available to help you understand whether you may be owed compensation for your injuries.

The North Carolina Court of Appeal recently handed down a decision in a dispute brought by a person who was injured in someone’s home. The plaintiff was attending a party at the defendant’s house. The guests were located in the patio area. The plaintiff walked across the patio to sit down near the guests. The plaintiff sat down in a chair that was located next to a step that led to a lower patio area. The step was roughly six and one-half inches down. After a while, the plaintiff stood up from her seat and attempted to walk away when she fell nearly immediately. The plaintiff landed on her wrist and required surgery to address the injury.

According to her complaint, the plaintiff stated that the defendant was negligent by failing to mark the step that led to the lower patio area. Both patio surfaces were the same color, which made it difficult to ascertain that there was a height difference, the complaint alleged. The plaintiff also asserted that the homeowner had indicated that he had considered painting the step another color and constructing a railing.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the danger that the step posed was open and obvious. Under North Carolina law, if the danger is open and obvious such that a reasonable person would identify it and proceed with appropriate caution, the injury victim is barred from claiming that the property owner’s negligence as the cause of his or her harm. The lower court granted the motion to dismiss and the plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court agreed with the lower court that a step is an open and obvious danger that reasonable people are able to identify. The appellate court reviewed additional evidence in the record which showed that the plaintiff was not distracted when traveling down the step and that she had been sitting next to the step for enough time to become aware of its location. Based on this, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in the defendant homeowner’s favor, which resulted in dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims.

If you had a slip and fall accident and were injured on another person’s property, it is important that you speak to an experienced North Carolina premises liability lawyer to assess your rights and potential recovery. Attorney Burton provides injury victims with responsive and compassionate legal counsel while ensuring that their rights are asserted to the fullest extent. To set up a free consultation, call his office as soon as possible at 919-720-4447 (or toll free at 833-623-0042) or contact him online to get started.

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