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Rash v. Waterway - Contributory negligence in slip and fall cases

In a recent decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the Court took on the issue of contributory negligence in a slip and fall case. Vanessa Rash filed a negligence law suit against the Waterway Landing Homeowners Association after she slipped and fell on a molded walkway in her condomimum complex. 


Ms. Rash was preparing to leave for a trip and took the elevator to the ground floor.  Upon exiting, she began walking toward the parking lot and turned a corner to get there.  She slipped and fell making this turn on a molded walkway.  Ms. Rash broke her femur in the fall and required extensive medical treatment.  The Homeowners Association has been previously warned that it needed to clean and fix the molded area of the walkway, but had failed to do so.


During the litigation, Ms. Rash admitted that she was not looking down at the walkway at the time she slipped and injured herself.  As such, the trial court granted summary judgement in favor of the Homeowners Association.  The court saw her failure to look down at where she was walking to be contributory negligence.  Contributory negligence arises when the plaintiff fails to exercise the ordinary care that a reasonable person would.  In North Carolina, contributory negligence bars the plaintiff from any recovery.


On appeal, the trial court's ruling was reversed.  Ms. Rash had no knowledge of the mold growth causing the dangerous conditions.  In addition, the facts suggested that even if Ms. Rash had looked down while she walking, she most likely wouldn't have been able to notice the mold or dangerous conditions.  The Court also noted that the law does not require a person to be looking at the ground for hazards while walking, and failing to look down does not establish contributory negligence.  As such, the Court of Appeals found that a jury could conclude that Ms. Rash exercised ordinary care when traversing the walkway. 


Source: COA16-1158, Rash v. Waterway Landing Homeowners Association, Inc.

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