Richardson v. The Commodore, Inc.

599 N.W.2d 693 (Iowa 1999)



A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to his invitees by a condition on the land if, but only if, he (a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees, and (b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it, and (c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.


Plaintiff bar patron was injured at a bar owned and operated by defendants when a portion of the building's original plaster ceiling fell on him. Plaintiff claimed that he was a business invitee and that defendants' negligence in failing to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition caused the incident. It appears that the plaster came from the drop ceiling the defendants earlier installed and it separated due to wear and tear. Plaintiff's premises liability action was dismissed on defendants' motion for summary judgment, which the appellate court affirmed.


Did reasonable care warrant an inspection of the plaster ceiling to reveal its dangerous condition?




The court found sufficient evidence to create a jury question as to whether reasonable care warranted an inspection of the plaster ceiling and whether such an inspection would have alerted defendants to its dangerous condition. Although the plaster ceiling had not collapsed in the past, the defendants were aware of the age of the ceiling, and they should have realized that a falling ceiling posed a serious danger to their patrons. Therefore, the court vacated the intermediate court's decision, and remanded for further proceedings.

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