North Carolina Court of Appeals Raises the Bar in Trip and Fall Cases

In an unpublished decision issued earlier this week the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of an injured visitor’s premises liability claim against a residential property owner. The case is Novack v. Kosciuszko (No. COA19-383. February 4, 2020). Because the decision is unpublished it is not binding authority on North Carolina courts. Still, it signals the continued unfriendliness of the North Carolina appellate courts toward trip and fall cases.

In Novack, the plaintiff, who was a visitor at the defendant’s property, fell on a step that connected two adjoining levels of an outdoor patio. The plaintiff alleged that the step presented a dangerous condition that exposed her to an undue risk of harm. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the step was “open and obvious” and in “plain view,” thus relieving the owner of any duty to warn visitors of the alleged danger posed by the step. Among the factors considered by the Court in reaching its decision were the fact that the injured visitor was not distracted by anything when she fell, that she was not engaged in conversation with other guests on the property, that there was nothing obstructing her view of the steps, and that she had been sitting in close proximity to the step for 10 to 20 minutes before she fell.

The Court declined to address whether the conduct of the plaintiff rose to the level of contributory negligence.

North Carolina courts are traditionally hostile toward trip and fall cases. Many times, these claims are dismissed before they ever reach trial, as was the case in Novack.

At Brent Adams & Associates we have a proven track record of successfully representing injured people in trip and fall and other premises liability cases. If you have been injured in a trip and fall incident and believe that your injuries were caused by a defective property condition, please contact Mark McGrath at Brent Adams & Associates at (919) 781-7590 or by email at

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