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Traditionally, a landowner had no duty to protect entrants on the landowner's property from open and obvious dangers. The court, along with the vast majority of jurisdictions, has since embraced an exception when the landowner should anticipate the harm despite the hazard's open and obvious nature. By modifying the traditional rule, negligence laws throughout the country have progressed in favor of upholding the general duty of reasonable care. An owner or occupier of land should be held to the general duty of reasonable care when another is injured on his land and determinations of liability should primarily depend upon whether the owner or occupier acted reasonably under the circumstances. In recognition of the continuing development of the law governing landowner liability, the Nevada Supreme Court adopts the rule set forth in the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Physical and Emotional Harm § 51, and consequently, the court concludes that a landowner owes a duty of reasonable care to entrants for risks that exist on the landowner's property. In accordance with this position, the court holds that the open and obvious nature of a dangerous condition does not automatically relieve a landowner from the general duty of reasonable care. The fact that a dangerous condition may be open and obvious bears on the assessment of whether reasonable care was exercised by the landowner.
Appellant customer was shopping at appellee's store. While searching for trash bags in the paper goods aisle, appellant's left toe caught the corner of a wooden pallet, which was covered by a slightly turned box. He fell and sustained injuries. He sued for personal injuries, but the trial court granted the store summary judgment. On appeal, the court reversed and remanded.
Did the store owe its customers a duty to maintain an establishment free of dangerous conditions, including exposed pallets throughout the aisles?
The court adopted the rule set forth in the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Physical and Emotional Harm § 51, and found that a landowner owed a duty of reasonable care to persons who entered for risks that existed on the property of the landowner. The open and obvious nature of a condition that was dangerous did not automatically relieve a landowner from this duty. In this case, the trial court erred in finding that the store did not breach a duty of care because the hazard created by the pallet was obvious and open. There were questions that remained concerning whether the pallet was an open and obvious condition, whether the store acted reasonably, and whether the customer failed to exercise self-protection. Summary judgment was therefore improper.