Uneven Floor Level Does Not, in of Itself, Support Premise Liability Claim
Does an uneven floor level, in of itself, support a premise liability claim? No! Uneven floor levels are not so uncommon.
The case of Contardi v. Fun Town, LLC, dealt with this issue in the context of an uneven floor at a skating rink – the difference between the skating rink floor and building’s subfloor. A person was injured when exiting the skating rink to the building’s subfloor and, consequently, filed a premise liability lawsuit. The owner of the skating rink was granted summary judgment and the summary judgment was affirmed on appeal finding that a premise liability claim did not exist as a matter of law. The appellate court affirmed the summary judgment with an informative discussion as to premise liability claims, particularly in the context of uneven floors:
An owner/occupier of land owes an invitee two duties: (1) to use ordinary care in keeping the premises in a reasonably safe condition; and (2) to give timely warning of latent or concealed perils that are known or should be known by the owner or occupier but that are not known to the invitee or that by the exercise of due care, could not have been known by the invitee. However, there is no duty to warn an invitee of an obvious danger. This duty does not change from a residential to a commercial context.
Uneven floor levels in public places, by themselves, do not constitute latent, hidden, and dangerous conditions. Dim lighting does not transform an otherwise-obvious change in floor elevation into a latent danger. According to her own deposition testimony, [the plaintiff] had earlier that visit successfully exited the skating rink onto the floor under the same lighting conditions that were present when she fell. Because the uneven floor levels, even in dim lighting, constituted an open and obvious danger, Fun Town [owner of skating rink] had no duty to warn B.C. of the difference in the levels between the rink and the rest of the building floor.
Lastly, while an obvious danger may discharge a landowner’s duty to warn, Fun Town still had a separate duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. [The plaintiff] did not allege, argue, or present evidence in opposition to Fun Town’s summary judgment motion that the condition of the lip or step where B.C. fell was improperly maintained, in disrepair, or negligently designed. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court properly entered summary judgment in favor of Fun Town.
Contardi, supra (internal citations omitted).
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