When Is a Property Owner Liable for a “Slip and Fall” Injury?
“Slip and fall” accidents fall within a broader category of personal injury claims known as premises liability. In short, anyone who owns property has a legal duty to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition. If they do not, anyone invited onto the property who is injured as the result of a hazardous condition may be entitled to damages.
Slip and fall accidents may be the result of any number of defective conditions, such as improperly maintained stairs or an icy walkway. To win a premises liability claim, however, it is not enough to prove that a hazard existed and caused the plaintiff’s injury. There must also be evidence that the defendant–i.e., the property owner–knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. In the latter case, the plaintiff needs to show that the hazard was present long enough where the defendant would have discovered it through the exercise of ordinary care.
Defendant Must Have “Sufficient Time” to Address Hazard
Here is an illustration of what happens when a plaintiff comes up short on this element. This is a recent case from Rhode Island involving a plaintiff who tripped and fell on the stairs leading into the mobile home she lived in with her former common-law husband. According to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, she returned home one evening and when she stepped on the top stair she “began to fall through it” and became “encased” inside the stairway. She sued the defendant–her former partner who owned the property–alleging he should have known the stairs were defective, specifically that they “had rotted from insect damage.”
Unfortunately, the Rhode Island courts said there was insufficient evidence to support her claim. The Rhode Island Supreme Court, affirming a trial judge’s earlier ruling, noted the plaintiff herself testified that “when she left the premises that night she trod on the very step that collapsed on her return, but that she had not noticed anything unusual about the step.” Given these facts, the Court said it was impossible to find the defendant liable, since there was no way he could have had “sufficient time” to notice the defective stair and correct the condition before the plaintiff’s return.
Get Help With Your CT or RI Slip and Fall Case
Slip and fall cases are often more complicated than you might think as they require a detailed examination into the particular facts of the property and the owner’s knowledge of any hazards. An experienced Waterford-New London, Connecticut, and Rhode Island personal injury lawyer can assist you with investigating and pursuing your premises liability claim.
Contact Polito & Harrington today if you need to schedule a consultation with an attorney following a slip and fall or any similar type of accident.