Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that was brought against a hardware store after the plaintiff slipped and fell in the garden section. The case required the court to discuss what it termed the “distraction doctrine,” which may excuse a plaintiff’s failure to notice an open and obvious hazard.
The case is important to Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall victims because courts have routinely held that a plaintiff’s failure to notice an open and obvious hazard will preclude recovery. Thus, although the plaintiff’s argument, in this case, failed to persuade the court, the example illustrates when a plaintiff’s failure to take notice of a hazard may be excused.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was a frequent customer of the defendant hardware store. One day, the plaintiff visited the store to pick up a sprinkler timer. The plaintiff approached an employee in the garden section to ask where the timers were located. The employee told the plaintiff to follow him, and the plaintiff began to follow the employee.