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Kentucky Supreme Court holds that comparative fault doctrine applies to slip and fall case

Man clearing snow from the streets

By Jessica Surber, Attorney

English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Sometimes, a single individual, business, or governmental entity is clearly to blame for negligently inflicting harm on an accident victim. But there are also times when the injured person must share in the blame for what happened.

When more than one party bears the responsibility for an accident, fault is determined under the principles of comparative fault, such that an injured party’s settlement or judgment is reduced in proportion to his or her level of fault.

Recently, in the case of Carter v. Bullitt Host, LLC, the Kentucky Supreme Court addressed whether the doctrine of comparative fault was also applicable in premises liability cases involving the allegedly “open and obvious” hazards of snow and ice that caused a slip and fall injury.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a man who was traveling through Kentucky in February 2008 when a severe winter storm hit the area. He and his family stopped for the night at a Holiday Inn Express operated by the defendant. As the man was walking out of the front of the hotel the next morning, he slipped and fell on ice while walking through a covered area at the front entrance of the inn. The man’s ankle was broken in the fall.

He filed a negligence lawsuit against the inn in Jefferson County Circuit Court. The inn sought summary judgment, arguing that it was not liable for the man’s injuries because the condition of which he complained was an “open-and-obvious, naturally occurring hazard.” The trial court eventually granted the motion, and the intermediate court of appeals affirmed.

The Decision of the State’s High Court

On further appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, the court reversed. The court found that the so-called Manis rule, which was established by a 1968 court decision that held that a landowner had no liability for a naturally occurring open-and-obvious hazard, was no longer viable.

Because of the court’s decision in the 1984 case of Hilen v. Hays and the legislature’s enactment of Kentucky Revised Statute § 411.182 in 1988, the court found that all tort actions in the Commonwealth must provide for the apportionment of fault between the parties to a negligence case. Thus, “open-and-obvious” hazard cases, including those involving natural, outdoor hazards, are subject to the doctrine of comparative fault.

Thus, the inn was not entitled to summary judgment, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

To Get Help with Your Injury or Wrongful Death Case

If you’ve been hurt and you want to hold the responsible party financially accountable for your injuries, you need a law firm that is both knowledgeable and assertive in pursing compensation on behalf of those who have been injured by others’ careless behavior. To schedule an appointment with an experienced injury attorney in Kentucky who can handle premises liability, truck accident, car wreck, product liability, and other claims, call me, Jessica Surber, at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley today at 270-781-6500 and ask for a free consultation about your case. Our offices are conveniently located in downtown Bowling Green, and we accept cases throughout Kentucky and Tennessee.

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