What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? Finding half a worm in your apple. (Wait for laughter.)
Speaking of apples, apple-picking has become a common autumn activity, when orchards convince people to pick their own apples while taking in the ambiance. But legal principles still obviously apply to orchard-owners and invitees.
A landowner’s duty to maintain property does not include warning or protecting from “open and obvious” conditions that are not inherently dangerous. In the event that there is a concealed or dangerous condition, the landowner then is required to warn of that condition.
Recently, the First Department extended the scope of open and obvious and inherently dangerous in its decision on Mangiafridda v. Masker Fruit Farms, Inc., App. Division 1st Dept. (Jan. 3, 2019)(not yet reported). In Mangiafridda, plaintiff was apple picking at defendants apple orchard when she tripped and fell due to a sloped and rocky roadway on the premises. The defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that the condition of the roadway was open and obvious, inherent in the nature of an apple orchard and that plaintiff could have reasonably anticipated that the roadway would not be smooth.
The lower Court granted the defendants motion and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court found that not only was the roadway open and obvious but the defendant also posted warning signs regarding the sloped and rocky roadway. The Court found that the defendants did not have a duty to warn or protect of the condition, but even if they did, they met that duty by posting warning signs.
This decision diverges from the typical caselaw on this topic in that the Court found that the condition was “inherent to an apple orchard” not that it was “not inherently dangerous” which the typical standard is when assessing a property owner’s duty as it pertains to an open and obvious condition. This distinction, while slight, opens the door for defendants to argue that a condition is not dangerous if it is one that is “inherent to the location” of the accident and could have been anticipated to be present by the plaintiff. This distinction could be helpful to defendants where accidents occur due to inherent conditions or in typically dangerous circumstances.
Thanks to Dana Purcaro for her contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.