Washington, D.C. Premises Liability Cases: What Makes a Danger Open and Obvious?

When someone slips and falls in public, they may be embarrassed and assume that their fall was 100% their fault. However, it is important for Washington, D.C. residents to remember that there are often times where a property owner is responsible for allowing a hazardous situation on their property—a situation that causes people to slip and fall. In fact, those injured in these types of accidents may even be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against a property owner to claim monetary damages, which can cover past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages incurred due to the accident.

To be successful in a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff typically must prove that the hazardous situation that caused them to slip was not “open and obvious.” For example, if there were a large hole in a parking lot, but the hole is large, obvious, and roped off, then it is likely an open and obvious hazard, and someone who falls in may not be able to successfully recover.

Often, parties in these lawsuits will disagree about what constitutes an open and obvious danger. Take a recent state appellate case, for example. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was taking her children to get ice cream when she tripped on a small hole in the pavement outside the ice cream shop. She sued the property owners, but the defendants argued they could not be held liable because the small hole was open and obvious. The trial court agreed and granted judgment to the defendants without even allowing it to get to a jury, but the case was appealed.

On appeal, the court found that it was not clear whether or not the hole was open and obvious, and that a reasonable jury could conclude that it was not. Because the plaintiff offered evidence that she did not see the hole before she tripped, that it was the same color and hue as the surrounding pavement, and that it blended in with the parking lot, a jury could find that the hole was not open and obvious and the defendants could be held liable. Because this would be reasonable, the trial court erred in taking the case away from the jury. The appellate court thus reversed the case and remanded it for further proceedings, meaning the plaintiff might still be able to obtain a favorable verdict and monetary damages.

Contact a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip and fall accident, contact the dedicated personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, to learn how we can help you pursue a claim for recovery. Our dedicated and experienced attorneys represent Washington, D.C. plaintiffs in a wide variety of cases, including slip and falls, car accidents, dog bites, pharmacy errors, and product liability cases. To learn more about how we can help and schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney, call us today at 800-654-1949. Or, fill out our online form.

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