Bufkin v. Felipe’s Louisiana, LLC, 2014-0288 (La.10/15/14), with Justice Hughes writing for the Louisiana Supreme Court, granted summary judgment in favor of a contractor because the contractor owed no duty to warn of the obstruction presented to pedestrians by a pick-up sized dumpster, a large inanimate object visible to all, placed on the sidewalk. The allegedly dangerous or defective condition was obvious and apparent, or stated differently, was open and obvious to everyone who may potentially encounter it.
The plaintiff was walking down the sidewalk when he encountered a dumpster obstructing the sidewalk that the plaintiff had known was present for more than four months. Before crossing the one-way street, the plaintiff looked in the direction of oncoming traffic, but failed to look in the opposite direction past the dumpster. While crossing the street, the plaintiff was hit by a bicycle traveling in the wrong direction on the one-way street.
The specific issue before the Louisiana Supreme Court was whether the sidewalk condition, created by the contractor’s allegedly insufficient posted warnings and the placement of the large curbside dumpster, produced a vision obstruction for pedestrians crossing the street at that location that was unreasonably dangerous, and, if so, whether the contractor owed a duty to place additional warnings on its signage and/or to construct a buffer zone that would mitigate against any vision obstruction created.
The Louisiana Supreme Court held that the evidence presented by the contractor on motion for summary judgment established that any vision obstruction caused by the dumpster to a pedestrian crossing the street was obvious and apparent and reasonably safe for persons exercising ordinary care and prudence. The Court further reasoned that the size of the dumpster was comparable to a pick-up truck and was the type of situation any pedestrian might encounter on a regular basis.
Once the contractor demonstrated that the plaintiff would be unable to prove that a duty was owed to him by the contractor, the burden shifted to the plaintiff to demonstrate that he would be able to meet that burden at trial. The plaintiff failed to produce any affidavit, deposition, or other evidence admissible on motion for summary judgment to show that the contractor did have a duty to warn pedestrians of the obstruction or take extra measures to aid pedestrians to see around the obstruction.
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