Recent Rulings on the Open and Obvious Doctrine in Kentucky
Reasonable people are expected to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to themselves and to others against hazards that are out in the open and obvious even to an untrained perception. This is basically the definition of the open-and-obvious doctrine that is typically used as a defense in premises liability cases, and in general results in a summary judgment (dismissal) when the hazard proves to be open and obvious. In other words, it hinges upon the personal responsibility and common sense of people to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. However, like in anything legal, this is not as simple as it seems.
In Kentucky, recent Supreme Court rulings on two unrelated premises liability cases qualified the open-and-obvious doctrine which could significantly impact how premises liability cases, specifically slip-and-falls, are conducted in the future. The ruling basically says that a premises owner is guilty of a breach of duty to its invitees if there is a failure to do more to obviate the dangers posed by a hazardous situation, regardless of whether the hazard itself was open and obvious i.e. wires for medical equipment in a hospital room, and which failure resulted in an injury to the plaintiff.
According to the website of the Sampson Law Firm in Louisville, property owners in Kentucky owe a duty to invitees to eliminate potential risks for harm. As such, they share some responsibility for any harm that does occur to invitees even when the danger is open and obvious. Based on this, the Supreme Court states that the open-and-obvious doctrine was incompatible with the pure comparative fault system in place in Kentucky. Pure comparative fault allows a plaintiff to recover damages in tort cases even if the plaintiff is 99% at fault. That 1% fault of the defendant is enough to make the case viable, although whatever award is given is reduced by the plaintiff’s share of the fault. In essence, what these rulings denote is that the result is most likely to go against the defendant in a slip-and-fall lawsuit.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident in Kentucky, you have a very good chance of getting compensation. Consult with a skilled premises liability lawyer in your area as soon as possible.