Developer Not Liable in Lawsuit For Trip Over Wire Frame on a Storm Drain

storm_drain_drain_snow-1024x577Imagine walking through your neighborhood only to be seriously injured from tripping over a wire frame on a storm drain. The following case considers whether such a condition is open and obvious. This is an important consideration because if a condition is found to be open and obvious, then defendants do not have a duty to protect people from the condition. 

Theresa Granier and Linda Pace were walking on the sidewalk in their subdivision in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They reached the end of the sidewalk and turned left to cross the street. While walking, they tried to step over a storm drain attached to the curb. They both purportedly stepped onto a wire frame, called an inlet protector, covering the drain’s opening. As a result, they tripped and fell on the street and were seriously injured. 

Granier and Pace then filed a lawsuit against Alvarez Construction Company, the developer of the subdivision as well as its insurer, Navigator Specialty Insurance Company. In the lawsuit, they claimed Alvarez was negligent because the inlet protector was in its control and created an unreasonable risk of injury. 

Alvarez filed a summary judgment motion claiming the storm drain was not in their care, custody, or control under La. C.C. art. 2317:1; that it did not present an unreasonably dangerous condition, and even if it was dangerous or defective, Alvarez was not on notice. The trial court granted Alvarez’s summary judgment motion. Granier and Pace then appealed. 

On appeal, Granier and Pace disputed the trial court’s finding that the inlet protector was an open and obvious hazard. Alvarez claimed it was not liable for Grainier and Pace’s injuries because it had not been negligent because it did not owe Granier and Pace a duty to warn them of the open and obvious hazard. 

When a condition is open and obvious, it is not unreasonably dangerous. A condition is open and obvious if the risk of harm is apparent to everyone who encounters the condition. See Broussard v. State ex rel. Office of State Bldgs.  Defendants are not obligated to protect people against an open and obvious hazard. 

Here, the photographs presented showed its wire frame was clearly visible from multiple angles, including from the position Granier and Pace would have viewed it from right before they crossed over the drain. Granier and Pace agreed the photos accurately depicted the condition on the day of the accident. As a result, the appellate court found the inlet protector was open and obvious, so Alvarez did not have a duty to protect the public against it. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of Alvarez’s summary judgment motion.

Suppose you have been injured and are considering filing a lawsuit. In that case, it is essential to consult with a lawyer who can advise you on dealing with potential arguments that a condition is open and obvious such that the other party is not liable for your injuries.

Additional Sources: Theresa P. Granier and Linda Pace v. Navigator Specialty Ins. Co. and Alvarez Construction Co.

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Open and Obvious Conditions: Slip and Fall in Louisiana Convenience Store Lawsuit Discusses Open and Obvious Risk.  

Understanding Open and Obvious Defects: Implications for Personal Injury Claims

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