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New Mexico Property Owners Have Duty to Those Invited Onto Property, Including for Open and Obvious Dangers

| Jul 19, 2017 | Personal Injury

Accidents that take place in restaurants and other places of business may entitle victims to recover damages from the owner or property manager, according to New Mexico law.  Slip-and-fall cases are lawsuits that arise when individuals allege they have sustained injuries due to the negligence of the property owner in maintaining their premises.  As the defendant in this type of legal claim, a person who controls or possesses property owes a duty to exercise reasonable care in protecting all those invited onto their land.  A skilled New Mexico personal injury attorney can help set forth the elements of a premises liability claim, which provides a method for the victim to secure damages for their injuries and suffering.There are exceptions to the rule that a property owner is legally responsible for injuries caused by a failure to provide reasonable care, including when a hazard is “open and obvious.”  Plaintiff victims in premises liability lawsuits may face an affirmative defense if the defendant alleges that their fall was due to an “open and obvious” hazard.  This defense would protect a landowner if the danger that caused the slip-and-fall injuries should have been detected by the plaintiff.

In a recent case before a state supreme court, a plaintiff overcome this defense of the open and obvious doctrine.  There, the lower court had granted summary judgment to the defendant, a fast food restaurant, after a patron filed a lawsuit alleging their negligence caused him to slip and fall.  The plaintiff had claimed that he fell near the counter and also, moments before, near the restroom.  After leaving the restaurant, the plaintiff alleged he suffered severe back pain.

The defendant relied on video footage that showed the plaintiff had not slipped and fallen in the restaurant.  Furthermore, they stated that if he did fall, the wet floor that allegedly caused his fall was open and obvious.  On appeal to a circuit court, the summary judgment in favor of the defendant fast food restaurant was upheld.

The state supreme court overturned these decisions.  They stated that there was not enough evidence supporting an affirmative defense that the condition causing the plaintiff to fall had been open and obvious.  In their decision, the court relied on the evidence that the video footage showed an area where the plaintiff maintained he had not fallen.

Courts will often find, based on the facts of a particular case, that a condition is open and obvious if average users with “ordinary intelligence” would have been able to discover the danger and the risk that had been presented upon a casual inspection. However, New Mexico does not end the analysis of a landowner’s duty if a condition is open and obvious.  State law maintains that those who own or occupy land owe a duty of ordinary care under normal circumstances.  This duty exists whether or not the dangerous condition is obvious.

Following a slip-and-fall accident, if you or a loved one has suffered harm, dedicated personal injury attorney Matthew Vance can help. At the Law Offices of Matthew Vance, we help victims prove negligence and overcome any potential defenses to their legal claims.  Ensuring that their rights are protected is our priority, and we have successfully recovered compensation for individuals and families throughout New Mexico. To learn more, schedule a free initial consultation by calling 505-445-1604 or completing our online form.

More Blog Posts:

New Mexico Supreme Court Upholds Claim for Loss of Consortium Damages Brought by Minor Children on Behalf of Fatally Injured Father, New Mexico Injury Lawyer Blog, June 28, 2017

New Mexico Supreme Court Holds that Fraudulent Concealment May Apply to Wrongful Death Actions; Defendants Cannot Benefit from Concealing a Cause of Action and Asserting the Statute of Limitations as a Defense, New Mexico Injury Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2017