Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that raised an important issue that often comes up in Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuits. The case presented the court with the issue of whether a plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard that caused her fall was fatal to her claim. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard precluded any liability on the defendant shop-owner’s part.
The Facts of the Case
On a cold January morning, the plaintiff was running an errand for her employer which required her to pick up an order at the defendant’s shop. The plaintiff arrived at the shop and as she approached the front door, noticed that there was a puddle of water on the pavement at the base of the stairs leading up to the entrance. The plaintiff then noticed that there was a spigot that had been left open and was dripping, resulting in a slippery hazard.
The plaintiff made it by the icy patch and up the stairs, at which point she informed an employee of the puddle. The employee explained that someone had left the spigot open so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, and instructed the plaintiff to exit out a set of rolling doors along the side of the building. However, the employee told the plaintiff not to let anyone else know that he permitted her to leave through that door, because it could result in him being fired.
The plaintiff finished her business inside, and proceeded to exit toward the rolling doors. However, when she got to the rolling doors, they were locked. The plaintiff then looked around for another employee so she could find another way to leave the building, but was unable to find any other employees. She then went back to the employee that had informed her about the rolling door to ask him to open it for her, but he was busy helping another customer.
The plaintiff determined that there was no other way to leave without waiting around for the employee to finish up with the customers, so she left out the entrance. Unfortunately, she slipped and fell on the ice as she left.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the shop. In response, the shop argued that it could not be liable because the plaintiff chose to exit out the entrance door regardless of being aware that there was ice at the bottom of the stairs. The plaintiff argued that she only left out the front door because she did not want to get the employee in trouble by asking for someone else to open the alternate door, and that there was no other door for her to exit.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument. The court explained that, in order for the plaintiff to succeed in this line of argument, she must show that she was forced or coerced to travel over the known hazard. The court determined that the plaintiff’s desire not to get the employee in trouble was not the type of coercion necessary to overcome the fact that she traveled across a known hazard. Thus, the court determined that the plaintiff’s case should have been dismissed.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington D.C., Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured on another’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall lawsuit. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers we represent injury victims in all types of Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, including slip-and-fall accidents. With our experience on your side, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Determines Employer Does Not Have a Duty to Protect Employee-Plaintiff Outside the Scope of Employment, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 18, 2018
Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 4, 2018