“Positive Limiting Barriers” Are An Open and Obvious Condition, Relieving Owner of Duty to Warn

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On June 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decided the case of Potvin v. Speedway, Inc., a personal injury case subject to the laws of Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, environmental rules require the installation of “positive limiting barriers” at gasoline service stations to contain gasoline spills of up to 5 gallons. At a self-service station now owned by Speedway, Inc., the plaintiff, a passenger in a car being serviced, exited the car but tripped on these barriers and was injured. She sued Speedway in state court, and the case was removed to federal court. Affirming the District Court’s ruling in favor of the defendant, the Court of Appeals notes that Massachusetts law provides that property owners are relieved of any duty to warn a visitor or invitee of an open and obvious condition since it is logical to expect that a lawful visitor would exercise reasonable care to avoid the obvious and open danger these positive limiting barriers around the gasoline pump may present. Therefore, the Court of Appeals found that speedway, Inc., had no duty to warn the plaintiff and there was no triable negligence claim.

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