Summary disposition granted to assisted living facility is upheld
Jacinta Grooms sued the Independence Village after she fell in the bathroom of her sister's apartment. She entered the bathroom immediately after the cleaning staff had finished and she fell on the wet bathroom floor, injuring her wrist and leg. The trial judge ruled that no matter how slippery the wet floor may have been, the maids who announced that they were "done" owed no duty to warn or make the hazard safe. The judge held that the floor was an "open and obvious" danger which Grooms should have observed "on casual inspection," thus eliminating any duty of the cleaning staff to address the hazard.
The Court of Appeals upheld this decision, based on the fact that Grooms had been at the apartment previously when it was being cleaned and knew that the maids cleaned the entire apartment. Even though she did not know they were mopping the bathroom and did not see the mopping equipment, one of the maids testified that after mopping the floor was "shinier" than normal. The Court held that it was irrelevant that the bathroom lights were not on when she made her first, injury-causing, step into the bathroom. The judges held that based on these facts, Grooms should have "foreseen" the potential danger and her failure to foresee it wiped out any duty the maids might owe the apartment occupants and visitors.
Before Republican "special interests" dominated our courts, decisions such as this decision were questions of comparative fault for jurors to decide, with each negligent party bearing his or her share of fault. IF jurors found that a party created a hazard, it was up to jurors to allocate fault between the negligent actor and the victim--if he or she should have discovered the fault in time to avoid injury. We believe that remains an eminently reasonable rule consistent with both citizens' constitutional right to a trial by a jury of their peers.