Cases are fact driven. And the level of detail that a Court will delve into in reaching a decision may be surprising. Take for example the case of Rozowicz v. C3 Presents, LLC, 2017 Ill.App (1st). (Full Case PDF here)
The Slip & Fall Circumstances
In this case, plaintiff, an attendee of Lollapalooza music festival, in Chicago, slipped and fell on a rainy afternoon while exiting the concert, sustaining serious injuries. Lollapalooza was held at Grant Park. C3 contracted with the Chicago Park District to sponsor the festival. Under the terms of the lease, C3 was responsible to”take all actions necessary to ensure the safety of Festival attendees.” Plaintiff alleged that C3 negligently failed to abide by its responsibilities in many ways: failure to have sufficient lighting around exits, failure to place mats over slippery areas, failure to manage the crowd, failure to provide safe means of exiting the Park, and/or failure to cancel the festival. Let's examine this:
A possessor of land is not liable to guests for their injuries due to a condition of the property whose danger is known or obvious. This rule of law is commonly known as the “Open and Obvious” rule. That is, if a person shopping in a store sees a hole in the floor 8’ wide and 20’ deep, she is supposed to (obviously) AVOID stepping into it, to protect themselves from injury. If she does not, the blame is hers, and the possessor of land will not be liable for her injuries. Whether a condition is open and obvious “depends on the the objective knowledge of a reasonable person not, the plaintiff’s subjective knowledge.” Otherwise, any person injured on someone’s property would claim they did not know there was a dangerous condition on the property.
Exceptions to the Open and Obvious Rule
There are two exceptions to the Open and Obvious rule. First, where the possessor of property should expect that the person’s attention will be distracted from becoming aware of the dangerous condition; second, when the possessor should expect a person will “deliberately encounter” the condition even knowing its risks. If either exception applies, a landowner may still be liable for a dangerous condition on the land even if that danger is open and obvious.
Plaintiff in this case argued that both exceptions applied. She said she was distracted by flashing strobe lights from the stage area, and people pushing each other and acting unruly while exiting the park. But she also testified that as she was walking she was looking down at the ground and saw her feet in the mud. She further testified she was watching how she walked because she knew the ground was slippery. Thus, rather than being distracted from existing conditions, plaintiff was paying attention to them. Plaintiff also argued that she deliberately encountered the conditions at the exit because she had to exit the Park.
Slip & Fall Case Dismissed!
The Court stated however that she had entered the concert at a different entrance than that where she exited and that she took the particular exit only because that was where the crowd was headed, rather than by necessity. Moreover she had used an entrance into the park which was made of concrete rather than a dirt path, and was located only a few feet away from where she fell. The result was that the Court dismissed plaintiff’s slip and fall injury case.
Open and Obvious Doctrine Impacts Slip & Fall Injury Cases
It is a common misconception that an injury occurring on someone’s property automatically confers liability on the property owner. As the above discussion demonstrates this is not the case. Slip and fall cases can prove very challenging. Lipkin & Apter was not involved in this slip and fall injury case. However, we have successfully represented many individuals with slip & fall, premises liability cases. We do so with meticulous attention to detail regarding the Open and Obvious doctrine and its exceptions.