Restoring the ‘open and obvious’ doctrine of liability

An editorial from the Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One of the most egregious decisions by the West Virginia Supreme Court in recent years was corrected last week when Gov. Tomblin signed Senate Bill 13 to reinstate the long-standing “open and obvious” doctrine in premises liability.

Simply put, that doctrine says that property owners can’t be held liable if someone injures himself due to a hazard on their property if the hazard is open and obvious.

A classic case is a wet floor in a supermarket. If a slippery patch is unmarked and you fall and break your ankle, the store may have to compensate you.

But if the store has blocked off the area with a sign that says “Danger: Wet floor!” the hazard is obvious. If you walk there anyway, the store isn’t liable for what happens if you slip and fall.

The West Virginia Supreme Court abandoned that rule in a 2013 case, over a sharp dissent from Justice Allen Loughry, who called it “a radical departure from our well-established law.”

“It is decisions like this that have given this state the unfortunate reputation of being a ‘judicial hellhole…

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