Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Business in Recent Premises Liability Case, Citing Open and Obvious Danger

A state court recently released an opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who was injured when he grabbed a package of precariously placed insulation, despite a sign advising him not to reach for the items. The case is important for New Mexico premises liability plaintiffs because it illustrates how courts view premises liability claims involving noticeable hazards.

Facts of the Case

In 2014, the plaintiff and his adult son went to a home improvement center that he frequented on a monthly basis to purchase some insulation for his home. The plaintiff purchased about two dozen rolls of insulations and was advised to drive to the center’s self-service warehouse to pick up the materials. The warehouse had signs that read, “For your safety, caution, do not cut bandings, do not open packages, to not pull, do not climb, and if you need assistance, please call.”

The plaintiff noticed that the stack of insulation did not seem straight and was leaning off to one side, but he decided to go ahead and pick up the insulation they needed. After about 15 minutes of loading, the leaning stack fell and landed on the plaintiff’s shoulder. The plaintiff and his son returned to the main store and notified them of the incident; they indicated that they did not notice an employee and did not ask for assistance.

Procedural Posture

The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit based on premises liability about a year after the incident. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that the defendant did not owe any legal duty to the plaintiff because the leaning insulation was an open and obvious condition. The appellate court affirmed this ruling.

New Mexico Law Regarding Open and Obvious Dangers

Under New Mexico case law, an occupier of a public place or building owes a duty to protect all reasonably foreseeable business visitors from being injured by something that is avoidable. The complicating issue in New Mexico is whether the “open and obvious” doctrine is still applicable even though New Mexico is a comparative negligence state.

A landmark New Mexico decision, Klopp v.Wackenhut Corp., sought to clarify the state’s law on this issue. The decision resulted in landowners having to overcome a more difficult burden when trying to establish the “open and obvious” doctrine to limit liability. The court found that landowners must protect invitees from being injured on their premises, if the danger was avoidable, by taking certain precautions. Since that decision, the trier of fact must consider several factors to determine whether liability is appropriate. For example, the trier of fact is required to look at the obscurity of the danger, the avoidability and severity of potential injuries, and possible things that may distract the patron from noticing the hazard.

Have You Been Injured While Visiting a Business or Building in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured while visiting a business or building in New Mexico, you should contact the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm. New Mexico premises liability cases are complex, and there are many legal rules and procedural requirements that must be considered when pursuing a case of this nature. An attorney can assist you in determining the proper recourse and appropriate award for the damages you sustained. Contact one of the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Issues Opinion in Spa Injury Case, Siding with Plaintiff, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 20, 2017.

New Mexico Circuit Court Finds Mountain Resort Waiver of Liability Valid in Negligence Lawsuit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 5, 2018.