RI Slip and Fall and the Open and Obvious Doctrine

Much like the seemingly never-ending construction on Reservoir Avenue around our office, our driveway has now been torn up creating a huge hole. It led me to think about the dangers of such environments and how the law approaches holes and other defects on property.

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Slip and fall cases can often be very tricky and in order to obtain fair compensation for your injuries, these cases will often require a lawsuit. In order for a landlord to be responsible for your injuries, in part, he or she must have known or should have known about the defect causing the fall and subsequent injury. If aware of the defect, the landlord must notify and warn all visitors or immediately fix the defect so that it is no longer dangerous. It is their duty to protect guests from known dangers. One exception to this rule is the “open and obvious” doctrine.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that a landlord is under no obligation to warn against an open and obvious condition on the premises. Stating further that the duty is on the plaintiff to act as a reasonable and prudent person. A landlord may be responsible if he failed to warn or repair of a defect that injured a person. That landlord, however, may not be responsible if the defect is so large or easy to see that there is no reason the plaintiff should have missed the defect. In other words, the defect is so large and easily visible that the plaintiff was negligent for not seeing it in advance and taking steps to avoid it.

Slip and fall in Rhode Island as you can now see requires a defect large enough that the landlord should have been aware of the defect but not so large that the plaintiff should have clearly avoided the defect. Now you can see why many of these cases end up in litigation. My office regularly takes these complex cases to trial and would be happy to talk to you about the injuries you sustained in a slip and fall.

By the way, I hereby warn any potential visitors that for the next few days our driveway has a dangerous defect! That said, I probably did not need to warn because a RI Court would likely find the defect open and obvious.