Court upholds summary disposition against man who fell into oil change pit
Robert Thomas took his car into Pat's Pit Stop for an oil change. He knew the owner, so he stepped out of the car intending to say hello. In walking around the car, he fell into the 10' deep pit, ostensibly because it was usually covered with a grate that was not present on this occasion. The trial judge granted the defendant's insurer's request that the case be summarily dismissed because the pit was an "open and obvious" hazard that the owner owed no duty to make reasonably safe.
The Court of Appeals affirmed. It noted that under the current analysis of a commercial property owner's legal duty, the Pit Stop's owner owed no duty whatsoever to make the pit reasonably safe, because a reasonable customer would have observed the dangerous condition on casual inspection. When the Court applies the modern "open and obvious" danger anaysis, there is no weighing of the extent of the risk, the comparative fault of the parties, or the reasonableness of potential safety precautions. The landlowner's duty to act reasonably is simply voided.