Premises Liability and the Walmart Pole

If you go to a Maine Walmart, watch out for the pole. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

In the parking lot of the Walmart in Auburn, Maine, stands a pole. Or, more accurately, usually leans a pole. The bright yellow pole has a stop sign on it, but weirdly, instead of stopping cars, it seems to act like a car magnet:  130 people have crashed into the pole since 2020. It’s now so well known that it’s becoming a tourist attraction: a 9-year-old girl asked to go there for her birthday.

If a landowner is aware of a dangerous condition on its property, it’s legally obligated to fix it and is liable if anyone gets hurt because of it.  But there is an exception—if the dangerous condition is open and obvious, the landowner isn’t liable if someone doesn’t avoid the danger.  The Walmart pole is so well known, it has its own Facebook page, so there’s no way Walmart could argue that it wasn’t aware of the danger—but neither could the 130 people who failed to avoid it.

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