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What is the ‘open and obvious’ defense to apartment premises liability?

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2023 | Premises Liability

Alabama landlords generally try their best to avoid financial responsibility after one of their tenants or an invited guest gets seriously hurt in a slip-and-fall injury. State law gives apartment owners several potential defenses to a premises liability claim. One of these is known as the “open and obvious” defense.

A serious fall in an apartment building or other rental property could be the landlord’s fault when they know that a hazard (or “trap”) exists, or reasonably should have known about it, but did not reasonably try to fix it or at least warn tenants about it. But the “open and obvious” defense makes an exception. If the trap — such as a puddle on the floor or a broken handrail in the stairwell — was open and obvious to the victim, the landlord could be off the hook. The idea is that tenants and others have some responsibility to watch out for hazards and protect themselves.

Exceptions to this exception

As an injured tenant, you might be glad to know that there are exceptions to the exception. For example, injuries from an open and obvious slip-and-fall hazard can still be the landlord’s fault if the landlord should expect that a tenant can get hurt even if they know about the problem. Other hazards are considered negligence per se, or automatic negligence regardless of what the injured person knew or did. Often, negligence per se is a violation of a state health or safety law.

You need to know if you have a strong slip-and-fall claim against your landlord before you can accept any possible settlement offer or pursue litigation. Advice from an attorney who regularly represents tenants against landlords in premises liability disputes can be invaluable.