When a person is invited onto property in Utah, the owner or operator of the property must make the property safe for use. An "invitation" is not a personal invite but the law uses the word "invite" to mean that a property owner or operator holds their property open to the public for use by the invitee--any brick and mortar store is an example. The property may be owned by a corporation or an individual and leased or rented to the operator.
Typically, when someone slips, trips or falls on a business premises, that person generally feels that it their own fault. After all, it is embarrassing to fall down in public. However, it is often the owner or operator of the store who is at fault. Many stores invite customers onto their property to do business. People visiting the store are bombarded with signs, noise and attractive displays of all manner. These displays invite people to look at them--why would the business place displays if not to invite people to look at them? Of course people look and take their eyes off where they are walking--they slip, trip and fall--often leading to injury.
Business operators would say "we can not be held responsible for everyone." Well, this is true--as long as the condition that causes the slip or trip is obvious. If the condition (hazard) that causes the slip or fall is "open and obvious" all people have a responsibility to avoid the hazard. After all, we all need to see what is there to be seen--right? Not so fast says the law.
There is a burden placed on all premises owners or operators to keep their premises safe. Even if the hazard is open and obvious the premises owners or operators must anticipate that invitees with encounter the hazardous condition regardless. In a relatively recent case in the Utah Appellate Court named Downham versus Arbuckle the court found exactly that:
HOLDINGS: -Summary judgment for a landlord in a tenant's premises liability case was error as the trial court improperly applied the open and obvious danger rule because although a wooden pallet that served as the back step constituted an open and obvious danger as a matter of law, that was not the end of the inquiry, and a jury could have found that the landlord should have anticipated that the tenant would encounter the dangerous condition and recognize that his tenants would use both the door and the step, and a reasonable jury could reach different conclusions about it from the undisputed evidence. Downham v. Arbuckle, 2021 UT App 121, ¶ 1, 502 P.3d 312, 314
Bottom Line: When you slip, trip and fall and you think it may be the fault of the premises owner or operator make sure to call an attorney who stays abreast of the law and is willing to investigate the case.
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