How Foster v Costco Changed Premise Liability in Nevada

When people in Nevada go to a grocery store, mall, concert, or casino, they expect to enjoy their day and return home safe and healthy. Nevertheless, there are many unexpected hazards that customers may encounter while out on the town in Las Vegas. Because property owners have a responsibility to present a safe environment to their guests, people may be able to make a premise liability claim if they are seriously injured due to the landowner’s negligence or failure to exercise reasonable care.

Over the years, however, injury attorneys Las Vegas have fought for the rights of their clients who were injured due to careless or negligent business practices. One 2012 case, Foster v. Costco, had a significant impact on how premise liability is understood in Nevada.

Injured at Costco

The 2012 case concerned a man, Stephen Foster, who went shopping at a Costco warehouse store. While visiting the store, he tripped and fell after his toe was caught on the corner of a wooden pallet on which boxes of merchandise were stacked. Due to his injuries, he sued Costco for the damages, saying that the company had allowed a dangerous condition to remain in place without a sufficient warning to customers. While Foster noted that he could see the pallets, overturned boxes prevented him from seeing the edge.

In response to Foster’s Las Vegas personal injury lawyer, Costco said that since the pallets presented an open and obvious danger, there was nothing further that the company needed to do to protect its customers. However, Foster argued that the threat was not necessarily obvious, due to boxes and other goods obscuring full visibility. However, the initial trial court accepted Costco’s argument, awarding summary judgment before the case reached a jury.  The essentially means the judge dismissed the case.

Refining Premises Liability Standards

However, when the Nevada Supreme Court heard the case, the high court refined the standards for premises liability for business owners in the state. In particular, the court noted that if a condition exists that can distract or prevent a customer from seeing a dangerous situation, the business owner has to take more care to protect their invitees.

In the past, business owners could escape responsibility under premises liability for people harmed on their property if they could argue that the danger was open and obvious. However, the nature of shopping malls, warehouse centers, and other public business institutions led Nevada courts to look more closely at the meaning of “open and obvious.”

What is Open or Obvious?

For example, many times, other displays and materials in the area are highly distracting. This is especially true in a business or entertainment environment where the company has created distracting and appealing displays throughout the area to entice customers. Many jurisdictions began to uphold a business owner’s responsibility to provide reasonable care to their customers, even if there is an open and obvious danger.

In Foster v. Costco, the case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings. It was insufficient for Costco to argue that the danger presented by the pallet was open and obvious to Foster and other customers. The court noted that a jury could conclude that customers were injured because they were distracted by their surroundings and other items in the area. The court also noted that there remained a further issue as to whether Costco violated its duty of care to its customers by allowing the dangerous condition to exist at all.

Today, people continue to suffer serious injuries, including broken bones, brain damage, and back problems, due to obstacles and unsafe conditions left in place by Las Vegas businesses. If you have been injured in a public place due to someone else’s negligence, a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer may be able to help you pursue your rights under premises liability. Call the experienced injury attorneys Las Vegas at The Schnitzer Law Firm at 702-960-4050 or use our simple online form to set up a free consultation.