(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this slip and fall/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
In Delk v. Mobilehomes, Inc. (1953) 118 Cal.App.2d 529, the plaintiff was injured while doing work underneath a mobile home belonging to the defendant. A support jack had given way on account of damp ground conditions, leading to the lowering of a support beam which thereby struck plaintiff. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of the defendant, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court held that the ground conditions were open and obvious, and that defendant was not liable for injuries therefrom. The Court held (at 532-533):
An invitor is not required to give an invitee warning or notice of obvious danger but is entitled to assume that the invitee will perceive that which would be obvious to him upon the ordinary use of his own senses.
In Powell v. Stivers (1951) 108 Cal.App.2d 72, the plaintiff tripped and fell over an electrical cord lying on the floor, nestled between a piano and the wall. The plaintiff filed suit against the building owner, claiming that the owner had a duty to warn of or remove the cord from the ground. Defendant moved for a nonsuit, which the trial court granted. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that the defendant could not be held responsible for a condition that would be apparent to others, and that the electrical cord was patent, an open and obvious danger. Id. at 73-74.
Based on well-established precedent, ABC Hotel owed no duty to warn plaintiff of the location of her and her companions’ seven to eight pieces of luggage because they were open and obvious to any reasonable person using reasonable care to observe their environment (e.g. watching where one is walking). The accident occurred at approximately 4:30 p.m. of a summer afternoon in September (pre-daylight savings change).
At the time, plaintiff had actual notice that her luggage had been delivered to the hotel suite. She admittedly knew that the Hotel bellman had delivered the luggage and, thus, she was aware that the luggage was in the suite. Notably, there was no complaint about the delivery of the luggage at the time it was placed in the room as established by the generous tip paid to the bellman for his services.
Moreover, the multiple pieces of luggage, all black in color, were easily visible against the light walls, white and turquoise furniture, and grey colored carpeting in the suite.
There is simply no rational explanation for why plaintiff did not move through the hotel room in a forward moving direction so that she could observe the path before her. Human nature and sound personal safety, when maneuvering through any environment, particularly unfamiliar surroundings, would be to turn around in place before attempting to walk. Rather, plaintiff in this case admittedly chose to step backwards blindly without looking causing her to trip over her and her companions’ luggage. ABC Hotel is entitled to presume that plaintiff, like any reasonable person, would perceive that which would be obvious by simply looking around. Curland v. Los Angeles County Fair Assn., supra, 118 Cal.App.2d 691; Delk v. Mobilehomes, Inc., supra, 118 Cal.App.2d 529. Seven to eight pieces of familiar luggage placed together in a room must be considered open and obvious condition for which any person, taking a modicum of care for their own safety, would have seen and avoided. Therefore, ABC Hotel owed plaintiff no duty to warn of, or repair, this open and obvious condition. (See Part 7 of 8.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.