A ‘Penney’ for your thought: Pay attention and you might not get hurt

By The SE Texas Record | Sep 22, 2015

How capacious and conspicuous must a hazard be before a person injured by it can be held accountable for not seeing and sidestepping it?

If you break your nose walking headlong into the side of a skyscraper or twist an ankle trying unsuccessfully to hurdle a ditch the size of the Grand Canyon, do you really have anyone but yourself to blame?

If you break both legs falling through an open manhole in the street because you were texting at the time or playing Angry Birds, whose fault is that?

True, you wouldn't have fallen through the manhole if the cover had been on it, and you wouldn't have run into the skyscraper if some darned fool hadn't erected it there right in your path, but how does a person manage not to notice such obvious obstacles?

If an anvil or a piano falls on your head from a great height, you have a right to be upset. But, if you saw it falling and the only reason it hit you is that you stood there too long, directly beneath it, watching it fall, is the owner of the plummeting object solely responsible for your accordion-like condition?

These are questions we'd like to ask Janice Smith, questions she's likely to be asked by attorneys representing J.C. Penney, now that the store's request for summary judgment has been denied.

Smith filed suit in Jefferson County District Court last year against J.C. Penney and the Parkdale Mall in Beaumont, seeking a million dollars in damages for injuries she allegedly received in 2013 when she tripped on a storm drain and fell on the sidewalk in front of the store.

Smith herself noted that the storm drain was raised up and had large gaps in it, conditions an attentive person would have noticed. Nevertheless, if she prevails in court, the cost of her clumsiness will be passed on to other J.C. Penney customers.

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