OR Case Update: Slips and Falls: Is a Wet Spot Alone Enough to Prove Liability?

From the desk of Jeffrey D. Eberhard: Whether it’s water on the mass transit bus floor or a spill on aisle 6, property owners generally have a legal obligation to find out about “foreign substances” and take steps to make sure that people don’t get hurt because of them. But what does an injured person have to prove to win on a claim involving a slip and fall on a foreign substance? Are puddles and spills always unreasonable? Read on to find out how the Court of Appeals clarified Oregon’s premises liability law.

Claims Pointer: In a case involving rainwater on a mass transit floor, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict, which decided that the transit department was not negligent for failing to warn passengers of rainwater on the floor. The court also held that the transit department was not negligent for not removing the rainwater where they had installed slip-resistant floors. In the jury’s view, the transit department fulfilled its duty to keep the floors reasonably safe for passengers. This case is a “win” for property owners because it clarifies that by taking reasonable precautions to make floors safe, a property owner may owe no additional duty to warn of or remove water from obviously wet floors.

Moorehead v. TriMet, 273 Or App 54 (August 19, 2015).

On a rainy Portland evening, Tina Moorehead got on a TriMet “MAX” (light rail) train on her way home from work. As she got on the train, she noticed that the floor was wet, but did not notice any puddles of water. The conductor later admitted that he knew that the floor of the train was wet, but did not warn anyone. (In Portland, where it rains 300 days out of the year, it is not unusual for public floors to be wet.) The floor was textured with a product called “Tungsten” in which TriMet had installed for its safety under wet conditions. As Moorehead moved to exit the train, she slipped and injured her ankle.

Moorehead filed suit against TriMet, claiming that TriMet was...

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