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Court Finds School Negligent For Failing to Place Proper Warning Signs

While in most situations it is preferable for Tennessee property owners to avoid dangerous conditions on their property altogether, in some cases it simply is not possible for owners to do so. They may need to make a repair, update construction, or start a project that necessarily leaves a dangerous condition temporarily on the property. When this happens, it becomes imperative that property owners properly warn others who enter the property so that they know that a dangerous condition exists.

A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals looks at whether a dangerous condition was properly flagged for others and whether reasonable precautions were put in place. In this case, L.R. was injured after she slipped and fell on a wet hallway floor outside her classroom at a local middle school.  Earlier that day, custodians at the school had noticed that water was spilled on the hallway floor. They decided to mop up the water, which was on the left side of the hallway. They placed signs in a small area of the hallway to indicate to others that the floor was wet. However, they then proceeded to continue to mop the remainder of the hallway, going all the way over to the right side where L.R.’s classroom was located. The custodians did not move any of their signs to indicate this broader wet floor, and did not warn L.R. although she was in the classroom at the time.

Shortly thereafter, L.R. exited her classroom and fell almost immediately after she slipped on the wet floor. She was injured and sued the school for her injuries, alleging they had failed to properly warn of the hazard. The court, after listening to the testimony of the witnesses and reviewing security video footage of the fall, agreed with L.R. and found that the school had been negligent in failing to properly warn L.R. of the dangerous fall. The school district appealed.

On appeal, the school district argued that the custodians had acted reasonably under the circumstances when they placed warning signs on the left side of the hallway to let passer-bye know that the floor was wet. The school argued that L.R. should have been able to determine from those signs that a dangerous condition existed and avoid it. The appeals court disagreed. In reviewing the evidence, including the pictures and videos, it noted that the signs placed by the custodians misleadingly indicated that the wet floor was limited to a small area of the hallway, and not the entire hallway. The court also noted that the janitors made no effort to move the signs after continuing to mop, and did not make any effort to warn L.R. of the hazard. Under these circumstances, the court determined that their actions were not reasonable and that they had been negligent in their conduct. Accordingly, the court of appeals upheld the lower court’s verdict.

This case makes clear that undertaking a superficial effort to warn visitors or employees of dangerous conditions on your property may not be enough to protect you from liability. Placing a difficult to see sign or warning individuals “once off” may be considered unreasonable under the circumstances and expose you to negligence claims. Where you anticipate a known hazard on your property, it is important to have a strong policy for dealing with it publicly and directly, plus warning others as well.

If are facing a claim that you unreasonably failed to notify others of a hazard on your property, premises liability attorney Eric Beasley can help you craft an effective litigation strategy. For more information, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Explains Excusable Neglect of Service in Personal Injury Cases, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, May 16, 2018.

Tennessee Court Finds Homeowner Not Responsible for Worker’s Fall, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, March 20, 2018.

Tennessee Court Holds No Duty to Keep Parking Spots Safe, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, December 15, 2017.