Kentucky Court reverses Summary Judgment to defendants in grocery store fall case

by Mandy Hicks

Say the words “slip and fall” and “grocery store,” and a mental image of a shopper sliding across the produce section on a banana peel inevitably comes to mind. It’s so cliché that it’s almost humorous – unless you are a person who broke a bone or herniated a disc in a fall.

The fact is that there are many serious injuries in grocery stores in Kentucky and across the nation each year, many of which could have been avoided had the store fulfilled its duty of care to the customer.

Facts of the Case

In the (unpublished) case of Shirrell v. The Kroger Company, the plaintiff was a man who slipped and fell on posters lying on the floor of a grocery store. He brought suit against the grocery store, a soft drink company whose employee allegedly placed the posters inside the grocery store, and others, seeking compensation for his injuries. Specifically, the man claimed that the defendants knew that customers were likely to traverse the area but failed to properly maintain or inspect the area, and they failed to warn him of a hazard in the area.

Two of the defendants filed motions for summary judgment, averring that the posters on the floor were an open and obvious hazard. Thus, they argued that they did not breach a duty of care to the plaintiff. The Taylor County Circuit Court agreed and entered summary judgment for those defendants.

The Decision on Appeal

The Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. First, the court noted that, since the lower court had issued its decision, the state supreme court had rendered a decision in another case with a somewhat similar issue. In Carter v. Bullit Host, the higher court clarified the open and obvious rule in a case involving an outdoor natural hazard, holding that, under comparative fault, a so-called open and obvious condition was “no more than a circumstance” to be considered by the trier of fact in assessing the parties’ respective fault. In Carter, the supreme court also stated that the open and obvious nature of a hazard was generally a question of fact, rather than an issue to be decided on summary judgment.

After finding that the posters upon which the plaintiff fell were open and obvious but declaring that issues remained as to whether the defendants did all that they could to fulfill their duty of care to the plaintiff, the court decided that summary judgment was inappropriate and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

To Get Legal Assistance with Your Claim

If you have been hurt because of another person’s negligence or due to the carelessness of a business or governmental entity, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for your injuries in the form of monetary damages. The experienced Kentucky slip and fall attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can assist you in determining whether you have a viable claim and, if so, file the paperwork to get your case started in the appropriate court. Call us at (270) 781-6500 to set up your free and confidential case evaluation. We can also help people who need a car accident attorney or guidance with another personal injury claim.

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