Washington Case Update: Snakebit: When Does a Plaintiff Have to Show Notice of a Hazardous Condition?

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Snakebit: When Does a Plaintiff Have to Show Notice of a Hazardous Condition?

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: Under Washington premises liability law, a business invitee usually must show that the owner of the premises had actual or constructive notice of the hazardous condition for the business to be liability to attach.  Under the “self-service” Pimentel exception, however, the plaintiff does not have to show that the defendant had notice if the nature of the “self-service” business and its methods of operation are such that unsafe conditions on the premises are reasonably foreseeable.  Read on to see how courts will analyze and apply this exception.

Claims Pointer: In this unpublished case arising out of a rattlesnake bite in a Walmart outdoor garden center, the Washington Court of Appeals held that because the Pimentel exception applied, the plaintiff was not obligated to show that Walmart had notice of a hazardous condition and therefore the trial court’s granting of summary judgment was inappropriate.  The case is a reminder to businesses, insurers, and attorneys of the Pimentel exception and its application where the business’s mode of operation involves customers serving themselves.

Craig v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 33985-8-III, Washington Court of Appeals, Division III (December 8, 2016) (unpublished)

In May 2012, while shopping for mulch in the outdoor garden center of a Walmart store in Clarkston, Washington, Mica Craig (“Craig”) was bitten by a rattlesnake hidden amongst bags of mulch.  He brought suit against Walmart on several theories, including a premises liability theory.

Walmart moved for summary judgment against Craig’s premises liability claim, asserting it lacked actual or constructive notice of any rattlesnake danger.  Specifically, it stated that its Clarkston store had been in operation since September 2009, that over four million customers had visited the store prior to May 2012, and that there had never been a...

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