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What Is the Open and Obvious Doctrine?

Posted on 01/12/24

Property owners have specific duties related to the maintenance of their property, particularly if anyone else has the right to be on the premises or is expected to be on the premises. Property owners can be liable for injuries arising due to premises defects or activities allowed to occur on the premises. 

In some cases, a property owner will use the “open and obvious” defense to get out from under any liability issues for an injury that occurs on their property.

Understanding the Open and Obvious Defense

Property owners can hold liability in a few situations when injuries occur, including those arising due to a defect on the premises, as well as injuries arising due to an activity or instrumentality on the premises. 

Often, premises liability claims hinge on whether or not a hazardous condition was “open and obvious” or known to the injury victim. The idea is that if an invitee is aware of the dangerous property condition, either because the danger is open and obvious or because the landowner provided a warning, the condition, in most situations, no longer poses an unreasonable risk to the invitee. The law assumes that the invitee will, upon learning of the dangers, take reasonable measures to protect themselves.

The “open and obvious” defense is a concept in premises liability law. This doctrine is applied in most states as an exception to general premises liability rules. It argues that if a hazard or condition on a property is so apparent and evident that a reasonable person would recognize and avoid it, then the property owner is not liable for failing to fix the hazard or warn about it. 

In essence, this defense relies on the premise that visitors should recognize and protect themselves from such obvious dangers. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, even if a hazard is apparent, the property owner may still be held liable if they could have expected that people could get hurt despite the hazard being obvious. Another exception involves negligence per se, where a violation of a health or safety statute by the landowner automatically constitutes negligence, regardless of the injured party’s awareness or actions​​​​.

Can You Recover Compensation After an Injury Occurs?

If you or somebody you care about has sustained an injury caused by the negligent or careless actions of a property owner, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney immediately. A skilled premises liability lawyer in Laredo can help you get through this entire process. An attorney can offer a free consultation and help you determine the best processes moving forward for your case. If a lawyer does take your case, they will likely do so on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay no legal fees until after they successfully recover the compensation you need.

A successful premises liability claim against a careless or negligent property owner could recover various types of compensation on behalf of an injury victim. This includes possible payment of their medical bills, property damage expenses, lost wages, as well as physical and emotional pain and suffering damages.