Dressed for the Occasion – Wedding Reception Guests Pour Soap and Water on Dance Floor; Hotel Potentially Liable for Slip and Fall (Puerto Rico)


Blomquist v. Horned Dorset Primavera (Puerto Rico)
(unpublished trial court disposition)

Plaintiff was attending the wedding of a friend in Puerto Rico.  At some point during the reception, she left to change into a bathing suit as some of the guests were going to use the hotel’s pool.  While plaintiff was gone, other wedding guests poured water and soap onto the dance floor and used the dance floor to dance, slip, and slide on the wet soapy surface.  Plaintiff returned from changing and she slipped and fell on the wet, soapy dance floor, suffering personal injury.  Plaintiff sued the hotel, contending that the hotel failed to maintain the dance floor in a safe condition and failed to warn her of the dangerous condition that caused her to fall.  Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the wedding guests (including plaintiff) created the allegedly dangerous condition and that there was not enough time for defendant to discovery or stop the “self-inflicted hazard.”

The U.S. District Court denied the defendant’s motion, explaining that although it was uncontested that the wedding guests poured the soap and water on the dance floor, there was no evidence that plaintiff participated in that conduct or that plaintiff was aware of the condition.  Moreover, the Court noted it was for the jury to decide whether or not the hotel had sufficient time to prevent the incident.  Evidence indicated employees from the hotel were aware of and witnessed the behavior of the wedding guests, but did not ask them to stop or call for assistance from management.  Therefore, the Court concluded that a “reasonable trier of fact could find defendants breached their duty of care to [plaintiff], as a guest of the hotel, in failing to prevent a foreseeable risk by allowing the dance floor to remain wet and soapy and/or failing to warn [plaintiff] of the condition of the dance floor.”

Defendant also argued that plaintiff “voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risks involved in dancing, slipping and sliding on a wet, soaped and slippery dance floor,” and that the plaintiff participated in a “self-inflicted . . . inherent dangerous activity.”  However, the Court stated that this was not a case of primary assumption of risk (a limited duty of care on defendant’s part); rather, it was a matter of secondary assumption of the risk, pursuant to which defendant could argue comparative fault to the jury (i.e., plaintiff negligently caused the incident or exhibited negligence that contributed to the incident).

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