Mitchell v. Ankney, 15149

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Citation396 N.W.2d 312
Docket NumberNo. 15149,15149
PartiesRhonda MITCHELL, Plaintiff and Appellant v. Rodney ANKNEY and Sandra Ankney, Defendants and Respondents. . Considered on Briefs
Decision Date18 September 1986

Page 312

396 N.W.2d 312
Rhonda MITCHELL, Plaintiff and Appellant
Rodney ANKNEY and Sandra Ankney, Defendants and Respondents.
No. 15149.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Considered on Briefs Sept. 18, 1986.
Decided Nov. 19, 1986.

Robert L. O'Connor, Sioux Falls, for plaintiff and appellant.

Comet Haroldson of Woods, Fuller, Schultz & Smith, Sioux Falls, for defendants and respondents.

WUEST, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment in favor of the defendants in a personal injury case. We reverse and remand for trial on the merits.

The defendants, Sandra Ankney (Ankney) and her husband, provided baby sitting services in their home for the plaintiff, Rhonda Mitchell (Mitchell). On June 10, 1983, Mitchell and her husband arrived at the Ankney home to pick up their daughter. At the foot of the front porch was a garden hose which ran underneath the porch step and out to the lawn on the side of the house. As she was leaving the house, Mitchell fell at the base of the porch and sprained her ankle.

Mitchell claims she stepped down from the porch and tripped on the garden hose as her foot reached the ground. She asserts in her complaint that the Ankneys

Page 313

were negligent in having the hose running out from under the porch. The Ankneys dispute Mitchell's version of the facts by claiming that Mitchell began to stumble and fall as she descended the porch step. They also assert in their answer that Mitchell was contributorily negligent more than slight and therefore barred from recovery. We hold the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the defendants.

Negligence liability in tort requires a showing of the defendant's negligent breach of the standard of reasonable and ordinary care, and even if negligence is proven, recovery may be barred or reduced by the plaintiff's own contributory negligence. See, SDCL 20-9-1; 20-9-2. "[T]he norm of conduct of an ordinary, reasonably prudent person must be considered in determining the extent to which each party fell below that standard and, thus, was found negligent or contributorily negligent." Lovell v. Oahe Elec. Co-op., 382 N.W.2d 396, 399 (S.D.1986); Nugent v. Quam, 82 S.D. 583, 594-95, 152 N.W.2d 371, 377 (1967).

Although not absolute, "[w]hat constitutes due care and other questions relating to negligence and contributory negligence are generally questions of fact for the jury." 382 N.W.2d at 399; Hitzel v. Clark, 334 N.W.2d 37, 38 (S.D.1983); Stoltz v. Stonecypher, 336 N.W.2d 654, 657 (S.D.1983). Issues of negligence, contributory and comparative negligence, and proximate cause are ordinarily questions of fact and it must be a clear case before a trial judge is justified in taking these issues from the jury. "It is only when reasonable men can draw but one conclusion from facts and inferences that they become a matter of law and this rarely occurs." Wilson v. Great Northern Railroad Company, 83 S.D. 207, 157 N.W.2d 19 (1968).

A jury should determine whether the Ankneys breached any duty of reasonable care. The jury must also determine if Mitchell was contributorily negligent, and if so, if the negligence was slight in comparison with the negligence of the defendants. Lovell, supra. A trial court may grant summary judgment only when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. SDCL 15-6-56(c). "A genuine issue of fact exists where, on the basis of facts in the record, reasonable minds could differ on whether the defendant's conduct measures up to the required standard." Nemec v. Deering, 350 N.W.2d 53 (S.D.1984). In this case, reasonable minds could reach different conclusions on the issues, and therefore summary judgment was improperly granted.

Mitchell charges in her complaint that Ankney was negligent in having the hose placed under the porch step (an act). She also argues on appeal that Ankney had a duty to protect her by warning her of the garden hose and the potential for injury, and the duty to protect was breached primarily in failure to give warning (an omission).

As a general rule, the possessor of land owes an invitee or business visitor the duty of exercising reasonable or ordinary care for the benefit of the invitee's safety, and the possessor is liable for the breach of such duty. Stenholtz v. Modica, 264 N.W.2d 514 (S.D.1978); Norris v. Chicago, M., St. P. & P.R. Co., 74 S.D. 271, 51 N.W.2d 792 (1952); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 (1965). This duty of reasonable and ordinary care requires keeping the property reasonably safe for the benefit of the invitee. Restatement (Second) Torts, § 343, comment b; 1, 1E Frumer, Personal Injury--Actions, Defenses, Damages, §§ 1.04[d], 1.07[a][ii] (1980 and 1986 Supp.); 63 Am.Jur.2d, Premises Liability, § 238 (1972); Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Chandler, 152 Ga.App. 427, 263 S.E.2d 171 (1979); Tommerup v. Albertson's, Inc., 101 Idaho 1, 607 P.2d 1055 (1980); Keller v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 105 Idaho 649, 671 P.2d 1112 (Idaho App. 13 Dist.1983); See, H.E. Butt Grocery Co. v. Navarro, 658 S.W.2d 842 (Tex.App.1983). This general duty includes the duties owed to licensees: to warn of concealed, dangerous conditions known to the landowner and to use ordinary

Page 314

care in active operations on the property. Rest.2d, supra, § 343, comments b and d; 1E Frumer, supra, § 1.07[a][ii]; See also, Lewis v. United States, 663 F.2d 818 (8th Cir.1981); Ellis v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 410 A.2d 1381 (D.C.App.1979); Burk's v. Madyun, 105 Ill.App.3d 917, 61 Ill.Dec. 696, 435 N.E.2d 185 (1982); Canales v. Dominick's Finer Foods, Inc., 92 Ill.App.3d 773, 48 Ill.Dec. 272, 416 N.E.2d 303 (1981); Wingett v. Teledyne Industries, Inc., 479 N.E.2d 51 (Ind.1985). The duty to warn is a subpart of the duty to keep the property reasonably safe. The duty to keep the property reasonably safe is in turn a subpart of the general duty to exercise reasonable care.

Mitchell's arguments rest on a basic presumption: that the garden hose was a dangerous condition, and therefore the property was not reasonably safe. Whether the garden hose was dangerous enough to the point where the premises were no longer reasonably safe is the basis for finding: (1) if the Ankneys are liable because their property was not safe enough for their invitee, and (2) that there was a duty to warn Mitchell about the hose. The presence of an actual and unreasonable danger has been assumed by everyone, even though one must conclude that reasonable men could differ on whether or not the garden hose was a dangerous condition under the circumstances or if the property was therefore no longer reasonably safe.

A jury may find that the hose was dangerous under the circumstances or that it was at least potentially dangerous. Although a jury may decide this issue quickly, it is the essential basis on which all the other issues in this case rest. If the property could be considered to have been reasonably safe, then there was no breach of a duty of reasonable care or any need for a warning. Since reasonable minds could disagree, the court could not rule on this issue as a matter of law.

If the property was found to have a concealed danger, the requirement to "make safe" dangerous conditions will usually be satisfied where a reasonable warning has been given. Apparently no warning was given, and there could be a basis of liability. However, as the defendants point out, a duty to warn usually does not exist where the dangerous condition is so obvious that the invitee should reasonably have been aware of it.

The liability of an owner or occupant to an invitee for negligence in failing to render the premises reasonably safe for the invitee, or in failing to warn him of dangers thereon, must be predicated upon a superior knowledge concerning the dangers of the premises to persons going thereon. It is when the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
38 cases
  • Ward v. K mart Corp., 68962
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • April 18, 1990
    ...248 Or. 334, 433 P.2d 1019; Jones v. Three Rivers Management Corp. (1978), 483 Pa. 75, 394 A.2d 546; Mitchell v. Ankney (S.D.1986), 396 N.W.2d 312; Parker v. Highland Park, Inc. (Tex.1978), 565 S.W.2d 512; Maci v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. (1981), 105 Wis.2d 710, 314 N.W.2d 914; O'Donn......
  • Hersh v. E-T Enters., Ltd., 12-0106
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 12, 2013
    ...v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., 741 S.W.2d 28 (Mo. 1987); Ashcroft v. Calder Race Course, Inc., 492 So.2d 1309 (Fla.1986); Mitchell v. Ankney, 396 N.W.2d 312 (S.D. 1986); Williams v. Boise Cascade Corp., 507 A.2d 576 (Me.1986); O'Donnell v. City of Casper, 696 P.2d 1278 (Wyo. 1985); Woolston v. W......
  • Hersh v. E-T Enters., Ltd., 12–0106.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 27, 2013
    ...v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., 741 S.W.2d 28 (Mo.1987); Ashcroft v. Calder Race Course, Inc., 492 So.2d 1309 (Fla.1986); Mitchell v. Ankney, 396 N.W.2d 312 (S.D.1986); Williams v. Boise Cascade Corp., 507 A.2d 576 (Me.1986); O'Donnell v. City of Casper, 696 P.2d 1278 (Wyo.1985); Woolston v. Well......
  • Steffen v. Schwan's Sales Enterprises, 23706.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • April 19, 2006
    ...can draw but one conclusion from facts and inferences that they become a matter of law and this rarely occurs." Mitchell v. Ankney, 396 N.W.2d 312, 313 (S.D.1986) (citing Wilson v. Great N. R.R. Co., 83 S.D. 207, 157 N.W.2d 19 (1968)). Ultimately, we "review a trial court's decision to gran......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT