Trip and fall claims are a common risk for property owners. In Minnesota, property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care for all entrants, but that duty is limited when a potentially dangerous condition is open and obvious to a reasonable person.
In Homick v. Hellem, Deborah Eckland defended Defendant Bozena Hellem against such a trip-and-fall claim brought against her as the 30-year owner of an apartment building. The plaintiff tripped on a visibly uneven slab of concrete in broad daylight, and sued for his alleged injuries. Ms. Hellem moved for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims as a matter of law because the slab of concrete was so open and obvious that no warning was necessary. As the refrain goes, nobody needs warning of what they know or should reasonably be expected to know. The court agreed and granted summary judgment in Ms. Hellem’s favor, adding that plaintiff should have watched his step in order to prevent his injuries.
Unhappy with the result, plaintiff has filed the case with the Court of Appeals.
In the case of Zurich v. Big D v. Schwieters and Westfield, involving 24 million dollars in claimed damages, Westfield Insurance Company’s insured subcontractor installed non-fire retardant lumber at four construction projects and was sued when the lumber had to be removed and replaced. The subcontractor tendered the cases to Westfield for defense and indemnity. Westfield declined the tender because its policy was not triggered because there was no “property damage.” The only damage was done intentionally as part of the repair and replacement of the incorrect lumber and insurance policies are not intended to provide coverage for such damages. Deborah Eckland and Elizabeth Taylor opposed the subcontractor’s Motion for Summary Judgment in which it sought a declaration that Westfield has a duty to defend the lawsuits. The Hennepin County District Court agreed that there is no “property damage” as defined by the policy and ruled that Westfield has no duty to defend the insured.
We are proud to announce that Bill Celebrezze has joined the firm as a partner. Bill brings a wealth of litigation experience and expertise in the employment law field. We are looking forward to expanding this area of our practice. Welcome on board, Bill!
Goetz & Eckland is delighted to announce that Mike Rowley has joined the firm as a partner. Mike has extensive experience handling construction law cases and is considered an authority in the field. He is a perfect addition to our thriving construction defense practice. Welcome, Mike!