Customers of a business who are injured by a hazardous condition while on the premises of a business may have a cause of action against the business or property owner if certain conditions are met. Business owners have a duty to prevent hazardous conditions that may injure their customers, and may be held accountable for negligence in the event someone is injured while on the property. The duty is not absolute, however, as demonstrated by a recent federal appellate court decision that prevented an Illinois premises liability lawsuit from going to trial, and ultimately precluded the plaintiff from obtaining relief.
The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a man who was injured when he tripped on a display sign while shopping at the defendant hardware store. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when he was moving large pieces of lumber from a pile in a lumberyard, and tripped on a display sign that was not in its proper place. The plaintiff filed an Illinois personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that the defendant was negligent by allowing the display to be placed in a dangerous position and creating a hazard that caused his injuries.
Before the case went to trial, the defendant filed a motion with the district court arguing that the hazardous condition presented by the sign was open and obvious, and that the plaintiff either saw it before he tripped or should have seen it, and that his case should not proceed to trial as a result. The district court ruled that under Illinois law, injuries caused by an open and obvious hazard do not qualify for a claim of damages, and ruled in favor of the defendant, resulting in the plaintiff’s appeal.