Recently, a federal court of appeals issued an opinion in a personal injury case that presented an issue that commonly arises in New Mexico slip-and-fall cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a gas station could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries that were the result a slip-and-fall accident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the hazard causing the plaintiff’s fall was open and obvious, and that the gas station did not have a duty to warn her of the allegedly dangerous condition.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a car that stopped to get gas at the defendant gas station. As the driver exited the vehicle to pump the gas and then go to pay, the plaintiff got out of the car in search of a squeegee. As the plaintiff was looking for the squeegee, the heel of her right shoe got caught in a small groove in the pavement. The plaintiff was unable to maintain her balance and fell to the ground.
As it turns out, the grooves in the pavement were actually part of a positive limiting barrier (PLB). PLBs are a series of grooves in pavement that are designed to trap fuel in the event of a spill. The PLBs are required under state law, and these particular PLBs conformed with all state requirements.
The plaintiff claimed that, although the PLBs are required by state law and were clearly visible, they were a dangerous condition on the defendant’s property and thus the defendant had a duty to warn customers of their presence. The plaintiff also argued that a gas station is a distracting environment and, even if there would not normally be a duty to warn, there should be one under these circumstances.
The Court’s Opinion
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and dismissed her case. The court cited the plaintiff’s admission that the PLBs were clearly visible, explaining that a landowner generally does not have a duty to warn guests of open and obvious hazards. The plaintiff’s argument that the gas station environment was inherently distracting and thus warranted a warning where one would otherwise not be necessary did not convince the court. The court explained that, aside from raising the issue for the first time on appeal, there were no “extraordinary circumstances” such that a warning was necessary. The court also explained that the hazard created by the PLBs was not so dangerous that it required the gas station to remedy them, despite their obviousness.
Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated New Mexico personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience handling a wide range of New Mexico personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice matters. We aggressively pursue the compensation that our clients deserve through all stages of litigation. To learn more, call 505-889-FINE to schedule your free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Court Enforces Clause in Residential Lease Agreement Limiting the Amount of Time the Tenant Had to File a Lawsuit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 20, 2017.
Court Finds Plaintiff Waived Challenge to Jury’s Verdict By Failing to Object, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 6, 2018.