In Thomas v. Family Dollar, the plaintiff was shopping in the Family Dollar store when she slipped on a thick, yellow substance next to a broken glass bottle. She filed a complaint in state court, but it was removed by the defendant to federal court.
Plaintiff alleged that the Family Dollar was negligent in breaching its duty to keep its premises clear of substances on the floor. The Family Dollar moved for summary judgment, arguing that the substance was an open and obvious condition and it owed the plaintiff no duty of care.
In deciding on the motion for summary judgment, the court noted that it was uncontested that the plaintiff was a business invitee, and that Pennsylvania law limited the duty of care owed to business invitees. Plaintiff acknowledged that there were no visual obstructions surrounding the liquid that would have concealed it from her view, but argued that she was otherwise focused on the products displayed on the shelves. The Court, however, stated that it was Hornbook law in Pennsylvania that a person must look where she is going and further noted that other Pennsylvania courts have rejected plaintiff’s argument. The Court observed that although a lesser degree of attention was required of customers in stores than those walking along sidewalks, the general rule still applies that where one is injured as a result of a failure on her part to observe and avoid an obvious condition, she would not be heard to complain.
The Court found that the substance that plaintiff slipped on posed an obvious condition and its danger should have been readily apparent to a person exercising normal perception and judgment. Therefore, the Court found that the Family Dollar had no duty to plaintiff, and granted its summary judgment motion. The Court further noted that the plaintiff failed to prove that the Family Dollar had adequate notice of the condition to breach a duty of care. Thanks to Alexandra Perry for her contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.