Owner is not liable for sister's fall on family farm
Robin Wagner filed suit against her sister after she fell and was injured on the farm where she grew up. Wagner fell into a well pit that had been covered with a piece of sheet steel when the cover "flipped up" after she stepped on it. The well pit had always been present, however, for the past 14 years it had been covered with a steel plate which was at the time covered with leaves and debris. Misener's insurer argued that the well pit was "open and obvious" (since Wagner admitted that she knew of its existence) and that in any event, Miseners could not reasonably have known that it was dangerous. The trial court rejected the "open and obvious" claim, since it found that the danger was the inadequate cover, rather than the pit, itself. Nevertheless, the judge ruled that the Miseners' denials of any prior incidents involving the cover supported their claim that they were unaware of the hazard and thus owed no duty to correct it.
On Appeal, the Court upheld the trial judge's ruling. It agreed that the "inadequately supported cover" was a danger which was not apparent to a reasonable observer "on casual inspection," but it also ruled that the "wobbly" and unsupported cover was not a basis to infer that the Misenrers' [or a reasonable landowner] "should have known" of the danger it presented.