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There Was No Place to Put a Warning

The owner of a restaurant said, “There was no place to put a warning,” after a 68-year-old female fell on a step inside the restaurant. While moving from one table to another, plaintiff fell on a step separating two levels of the restaurant.There was no place to put a warning - Altizer Law, P.C.

The step was unlit, carpeted in a dark color that blended with the surrounding area, lacked railings, and had no warning signs or other distinctive markings to warn patrons of the step. Apparently, the step had not been changed or marked in more than 25 years.

A similar step was at the other end of the restaurant. This step was identified with lights and a “watch your step sign.” When asked at trial to explain why such a discrepancy existed, the defendant (restaurant owner) replied that there was no place to put a warning on the step where the plaintiff fell.

As a result of her fall down this step, plaintiff suffered a four-part fracture of her right shoulder. The injury required surgery to implant a partial prosthetic device. During testimony, plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the fall had caused a 30 to 40 percent permanent disability of plaintiff’s right arm.

The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded damages of $250,000. This case was tried in 1993. Today, the amount awarded in damages would be $425,356.

Today, most of us would be flabbergasted that a business owner would use as a defense against a negligence charge   a claim that “there was no place to put a warning.” This is clearly inadequate to explain his or her failure to make customers and staff aware of the location of the step. The fact that the similar step at the other end of the restaurant was clearly indicated makes the explanation still less credible.

Under Virginia law, it is the responsibility of the business owner to take every possible step to ensure the safety of customers or patrons. Any potential hazard should be clearly indicated in a way that customers will recognize the presence of that hazard. The business owner’s failure to mark the step was negligent.

If you are a business owner, please be advised that it is your responsibility to identify and warn customers of any hazard that exists on the premises. Failure to warn customers of hazards or to remove the hazard makes you liable if they are injured because the hazard was not apparent to them.

To say, “there was no place to put a warning” is a flimsy excuse for the business owner’s failure to warn customers of the hazard. There are many ways to indicate a hazard.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a business or property owner and through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to a financial settlement commensurate with your hurts and harms. It is important to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure that evidence is gathered, and that appropriate medical reports are available to the court. A call to Altizer Law, P.C., in Roanoke, Virginia can put you in touch with a trusted injury attorney who is known to fight fiercely and with great perseverance until her clients are awarded or settled with full and appropriate financial compensation. When you need representation in a personal injury case, trust the experience and determination of Bettina Altizer.

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