In New Jersey, landlords are required to keep the premises free of hazards so that visitors are kept safe. Under the law, a landlord must take the necessary steps to uncover and remove harmful or unsafe conditions. If a hazardous condition exists, a landlord must provide adequate warnings to the public. However, if a hazard is open and obvious, a plaintiff may be unable to recover damages for injuries that he or she sustained as a result of the apparent hazard.
Under premises liability law, an open and obvious hazard is a defense that is often asserted by a defendant. Here, the court asks whether a reasonably prudent person would have identified the hazard and understood the danger the hazard presented. Recently, an Applebee’s customer bowed his head towards a hot skillet filled with steak fajitas and was burned by splattered grease. According to the appellate judge, the skillet was an open and obvious hazard and the restaurant was not required to warn the individual against facial burns from bowing their head towards the dish.
When an open and obvious defense is asserted, the court will also examine the following:
- Whether a foreseeable distraction existed that would prevent a person from seeing an otherwise obvious hazard? Sometimes, a hazard may be rendered hidden if a distraction may have taken a person’s attention away. A court may also examine whether failing to remember that a hazard exists renders the injured party at fault.
- Whether the party was unreasonable in encountering the hazard? If a person is aware that a hazard exists and proceeds, then he or she assumes the risk of danger. If there is no alternative way to bypass the hazard, then it is not considered a voluntary encounter and the person did not assume the risk of danger.
- Whether the injured party’s behavior was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances? Here the court will examine all of the facts of the case.
If you or a loved one has been injured on a premise that presented a serious hazard, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. In personal injury cases, a plaintiff must prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence in order to find liability. The attorneys at Richard P. Rinaldo, Esq are skilled personal injury lawyers, who will fight for the compensation you deserve. Please contact us today at 908-352-2500 to schedule a free initial consultation.