may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Terry Daudt, d/b/a Frankie's Car Wash,
Filed November 19, 1996
Cass County District Court
File No. C995408
Thomas M. Countryman, 755 Curfew Street, St. Paul, MN 55114 (for Appellant)
Paul A. Rajkowski, Rajkowski Hansmeier Ltd., 11 Seventh Avenue North, P.O. Box 1433, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Appellant Ronald Wolske was injured when he slipped and fell in respondent Terry Daudt's car wash. Wolske appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to Daudt, arguing that Daudt had a duty to abate the danger created by a slippery floor. We affirm.
Wolske sued for negligence, and Daudt moved for summary judgment. The district court granted Daudt's motion, finding that there were no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the danger of slipping on the car wash floor was so obvious that Daudt had no duty to warn Wolske of the danger.
It is undisputed that Wolske slipped at Daudt's car wash. Wolske argues the district court erred by analyzing the case on a "duty to warn theory" because Daudt's duty to Wolske was not to warn him, but to abate the danger of the slippery floor. The legal duty one owes to another "is a question of law to be determined by the court." Zimmer v. Carlton County Co-op Power Ass'n, 483 N.W.2d 511, 513 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. June 10, 1992).
A property owner has a duty to use reasonable care to prevent invitees from being injured by conditions on the property that represent foreseeable causes of injury. Hanson v. Christensen, 275 Minn. 204, 213, 145 N.W.2d 868, 874 (1966). Where the risk of harm is obvious to the invitee, however, reasonable care does not require precautions, or even warning, unless the harm should be anticipated by the property owner despite the obviousness of the danger. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343A(1) & § 343A cmt. e (1965); Peterson v. W.T. Rawleigh Co., 274 Minn. 495, 497, 144 N.W.2d 555, 557-58 (1966) (adopting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343A).
A property owner might be expected to anticipate harm to an invitee even though a danger is obvious in circumstances where the invitee's attention may be distracted so that he or she will not discover what is obvious or where a reasonable person would find the benefits of encountering the danger outweigh the obvious risk. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343A cmt. f. In such situations, the duty of reasonable care may require the property owner to warn the invitee or to take other reasonable steps to protect the invitee against the condition. Id.; Peterson, 274 Minn. at 497-498, 144 N.W.2d at 558 (concluding that property owner should have anticipated that plaintiff and other elderly persons would decide to face obvious risk of crossing icy parking lot and therefore had legal duty either to "make the area safe for pedestrian travel or take appropriate measures to prevent the lot from being accessible").
In arguing that Daudt had a duty to abate the danger to him even though the danger was obvious, Wolske relies on Peterson. In Peterson, the icy parking lot was an abnormal condition. Here, a wet floor and the attendant risk of slipping are inherent in washing a vehicle at a car wash. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343A cmt. c (stating that risk may be obvious by being inherent in nature of activity). It is normal, and indeed unavoidable, that the floor of a car wash will be wet.
The district court did not err by concluding that the danger of slipping on a wet car wash floor was so obvious and normal that Daudt had no duty to warn against it. A property owner has a duty to exercise reasonable care. If a danger is one that a property owner should anticipate will cause harm despite the fact it is obvious, the duty may require abatement of the hazard. Nothing in the record, however, shows that Daudt should have anticipated that Wolske would injure himself despite the obviousness of the danger here. Daudt did not, therefore, have a duty either to warn Wolske of the danger of slipping on a wet floor or to abate the danger.
Wolske argues that even if Daudt had no legal duty to keep the floor of the car wash free of mud, Daudt assumed such a duty by cleaning regularly and breached it by failing to clean on the day Wolske was injured. Liability may result when a party's assumption of a duty leads others to rely on that party and as a result to take less care for their own safety. Williams v. Harris, 518 N.W.2d 864, 868 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Sept. 28, 1994). However, nothing in the record shows that Wolske relied on Daudt's normal cleaning schedule, and there is no evidence that the car wash was any muddier than usual or that Wolske would have been less likely to injure himself had Daudt cleaned the car wash on the day Wolske was injured. The district court properly granted summary judgment.