The End of the “Open and Obvious” Defense in Louisiana

FlamePicWhen a person knowingly puts his hand in a flame or steps in a hole he dug, isn’t the hazard posed by the flame or hole “open and obvious” to the claimant?  According to the Louisiana Supreme Court, a jury always needs to decide what an “open and obvious” hazard is. See Broussard v. State ex rel. Office of State Buildings, 2012-1238 (La. 4/5/13); 113 So. 3d 175, (the issue of whether a hazard is open and obvious is a question of fact for the jury). In moderate to conservative venues in Louisiana, state judges previously granted summary judgments in cases where they found a hazard was “open and obvious.”  There was a fairly well-developed body of law that defined what “open and obvious” conditions were that generally absolved defendants of liability to warn a plaintiff about such a hazard. In the future, summary judgments on the “open and obvious” hazard defense will be very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain in state courts in Louisiana as the Louisiana Supreme Court in Broussard has now defined such a hazard as an issue of fact for resolution by the jury.  As a result, defendants may be paying to settle “open and obvious” hazard cases they used to be dismissed from on summary judgment.