South-Western Legal Studies in Business

E-mail Notification of Construction Hazard May Be Insufficient Warning
Description Appeals court held that an employee who was injured when she fell into a construction hole outside the back door of an office building had the right to sue the contractor for failing to provide more notice of the hazard than an e-mail distributed three days earlier.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Premises Liability; Negligence; Duty of Care; Hazard
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Nichols worked in an office building that had a front and a back door. The back door was often used to go to the building next door, which housed more employees of the same company. Due to a gas leak, a hole was dug along the backside of the building. Barricades were put around the hole, except on the side of the building. Nichols walked out of the back door and fell in the hole, suffering injuries. She sued the construction company for negligence because no notice was posted on the door warning of the hole on the other side. She had received an email warning of the construction several days before, so the trial court held for the defendant. Nichols appealed.
Decision

Reversed and remanded. An injury is foreseeable where a defendant knows or should have known that its act was likely to result in harm to someone. This is determined on a case by case basis. Since Nichols and other employees entered through the front door of the building to come to work, it is foreseeable that they would not know of the construction out back. Since the back door was solid and had no windows, the hazard could not be seen from inside the building. Defendant had a duty to protect plaintiff against the hazard. Nichols received an e-mail about the construction three days before she went out the door. That is not sufficient warning of a hazard. Hence, the matter of liability determination should go to the jury.

Citation Nichols v. The Lathrop Co., --- N.E.2d --- (2005 WL 435172, Ct. App., Ohio, 2005)

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