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Who Is Liable for Injuries Resulting From Open and Obvious Conditions? – Goodwin v. Al J Schneider Co.

bathtubLandowners and individuals who invite another person into their home owe their invitees a duty to protect them from unreasonably dangerous conditions.  But what happens when an invitee is also aware of the dangerous condition and knowingly attempts to navigate it, but ultimately hurts him or herself? Is the landowner still liable for the injuries that occurred, or does the invitee take on liability because they willingly subjected themselves to such conditions? A recent case before the Supreme Court of Kentucky looks at liability when the danger is “open and obvious.”

In Goodwin v. Al J. Schneider Co., Mr. Goodwin was attending a convention at Galt House, owned by the defendant.  On the second day of the convention, Mr. Goodwin slipped and fell while getting into the bathtub and injured his knee.  The bathtub in his room did not have a bathmat, and the floor of the bathtub was quite slick.  After his fall, the Galt House provided Mr. Goodwin with a bathmat, and he later learned that many of the other rooms at the Galt House already had bathmats. In response, Mr. Goodwin sued, arguing that the slick surface of his bathtub was a dangerous condition and that the Galt House knew it was dangerous because it provided other rooms with bathmats. By failing to put a bathmat in his room, Mr. Goodwin alleged that the Galt House knowingly failed to exercise reasonable care for his safety. In response, the Galt House moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mr. Goodwin was equally aware of the slick surface of the bathtub and should have exercised care himself. Since he did not do so, he was liable.

The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that it was not clear that the Galt House had a duty to provide bathmats for every bathroom and that, while hotels must be cognizant of their guests’ safety, they do not have an obligation to prevent every injury that might occur. Mr. Goodwin appealed.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Kentucky turned to its history of precedent when dealing with situations in which a dangerous condition is known both by an owner and by an invitee. It noted the long line of cases holding that just because a danger is obvious does not mean that an invitee should be denied recovery. Landowners still owe duties to invitees to address unreasonably dangerous conditions on their property or to warn about them, even if it seems like such conditions should be obvious to the invitees. The Supreme Court held that such a duty exists even if the invitee is aware of the condition already. Thus, in this case, the Supreme Court held that the Galt House did have a duty to Mr. Goodwin to protect him from unreasonably dangerous conditions, regardless of his knowledge. The question was whether it breached that duty by failing to provide him with a bathmat. Accordingly, the Supreme Court rejected the notion that the Galt House was not liable because the condition was open and obvious, and it remanded the case for further proceedings on whether teh Galt House had breached a duty that it owed to Mr. Goodwin.

If you have been injured by a condition or defect that you did not notice at the time but that now seems quite obvious, you may be concerned that a court will reject your claim and find that you should have been more careful in your own actions.  However, as this case makes clear, just because you could have noticed a danger yourself does not mean that a landowner does not still have a duty to protect you against it. Experienced premises liability attorney Eric Beasley can assist you in evaluating whether you may still be owed a duty even if the condition that caused your injury was open and obvious. If you have recently been in an accident and are uncertain about your rights, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Finds Lack of Knowledge of Dangerous Condition Sufficient For Summary Judgment, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, July 7, 2016

What Constitutes a Known Dangerous Condition in Tennessee?, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, June 7, 2016

Evaluating Dangerous Road Conditions in Tennessee – When is Notice of Risk Enough?, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, November 19, 2015