State Supreme Court agrees Kroger not liable in woman's fall

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 20, 2019

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's decision in a lawsuit against Kroger alleging its negligence resulted a woman to fall.

Valerie Tabit filed a lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court in October 2016. She claimed she suffered damages at Kroger's place of business the prior year when she “tripped over the abnormally large caution sign that primarily blocked ingress and egress from the bathroom leaving only the narrow route to step over and around it.”

Tabit appealed the order of Kanawha Circuit Court that granted Kroger's motion for summary judgment on her claim that its negligence caused her to fall and sustain injuries.

In its ruling for Kroger, the Supreme Court said the public is well-served by the open and obvious placement of cautionary signs, the purpose of which is to warn patrons of potential dangers.

"Such signs must be positioned for maximum efficacy, generally in the direct sight—and sometimes pathways—of those entering hazardous areas," the Feb. 11 decision obtained by The West Virginia Record states. "(The) petitioner urges us to find that respondents created a hazard with the cautionary sign they used to warn of another, but we are loath to condemn an owner or occupier’s placement of a cautionary sign in an open and obvious manner to protect the public from harm."

The Court ruled that, in consideration of the need for the sign, the obviousness of the sign, the petitioner’s acknowledgment of having seen it and her "heedless" attempt to circumnavigate it, the harm, if any, posed by the sign placement did not outweigh the greater burden on Kroger to safeguard its guests.

"This Court has considered the parties’ briefs and the record on appeal," the decision states. "The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument."

In addition, the the decision states, Tabit "identified no action on the part of respondents that proximately caused her injury," 

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Case number: 18-0287

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