Premises Liability / Slip or Trip and Falls
Premises liability cases arise when a person is injured on someone else’s property due to negligence of the property owner or manager, or someone working at the property, or some combination of these people.
The classic example is when a customer in a grocery store slips and falls on a banana peel that someone dropped on the floor. Unfortunately, this is not a case that Eric could take in Maryland, the District of Columbia or Virginia. Why? Because each of these jurisdictions has “contributory negligence” as part of its law. Contributory negligence means that if the Plaintiff is found to be 1% at fault for the incident that caused the injury, the Plaintiff loses. In this example, the Plaintiff would be found to be 1% at fault for not seeing the visible banana peel. Thus, Eric would not take such a case because neither his client nor he could succeed.
In addition, a plaintiff in one of these cases must prove that person or entity responsible for the premises had "actual notice" or "constructive notice" of the hazard. This means that the person or entity responsible for the hazard either knew about the hazard and chose to do nothing to fix it or, that they should have known about it (for example, by doing careful inspections) and fixed it.
Despite contributory negligence law, and the requirement that a plaintiff prove actual or constructive notice in these cases, Eric has successfully handled many premises liability cases. These cases rarely settled pre-suit. In order for Eric to take these cases, they must have a very specific set of facts. Eric has successfully litigated and resolved premises liability cases for:
- A man visiting his daughter at her apartment complex who slipped and badly fractured his ankle while walking from the last step of a stairway to a tile landing that was made extra slick by a worker who had just mopped it without putting up a sign warning people at the apartment complex.
- A customer at a car dealership after dark who slipped and fell on a speed bump that was invisible because it was black like the rest of the parking lot surface and poorly lighted.
- A customer at a resort who walked down a set of steps that were dangerously lighted from high above making it appear that a step existed where it did not. That client fell badly and suffered a horrendous leg fracture.
- A customer injured at a fast food restaurant when he slipped on “black ice” (essentially, clear ice on a black asphalt surface that is nearly invisible) in its parking lot. The ice was caused by inadequate roof drainage that was sending water from the restaurants roof to a spot just past the sidewalk of the restaurant where it would pool and freeze into black ice.
- A woman who slipped and fell in an office kitchenette after it was wet from being mopped but no sign was put up.
- A woman who slipped and fell at a grocery store due to one of the store’s refrigerator’s having leaked a clear liquid.
- A woman who was a customer in a copy store who sat down on a chair that broke apart leading her to crash hard onto a hard floor.
- A boy whose face was fractured while walking on a sidewalk next to a DC building when uncleared snow and ice crashed off of the building’s steep roof and smashed his face.
- A man who tripped and fell, and suffered multiple injuries, including a broken leg, while attempting to enter a gas station convenience store. A few feet before he reached the entrance to the store, he had to step up to a raised concrete platform. The edge of the platform had metal imbedded in it. Over time, the metal had become damaged and a small piece of it stuck out into the path of a person trying to walk into the store. From the angle that Eric's client approached it, it was extremely hard to see (but if a person knew about the metal and inspected for it, it would have been easy to find). After filing a lawsuit for his client, Eric learned through discovery that the metal was known to the owner and manager of the gas station and that it had been repaired in the past. Eric took depositions of the people responsible for inspecting and maintaining the premises and got information that strengthened his client's claims. He then argued that the owners and managers (1) knew about the existence of the metal, (2) had a duty to do reasonable inspections, (3) would have discovered the dangerous metal if they had done reasonable inspections of the premises; and (4) that they should have repaired the metal in order to eliminate the hazard that it posed to their customers. After many depositions were taken, the case settled at a mediation for a confidential amount.
In one premises liability slip and fall case at a grocery store, Eric’s client was deposed (questioned under oath as part of a lawsuit with a court reporter taking down the questions and answers) by a highly skilled defense attorney. This lawyer was well prepared and very thorough. Eric spent hours studying the deposition transcript (the booklet of questions and answers that the court reporter produces a few weeks after the deposition takes place) and outlining it. Since that deposition, he has used that outline to prepare all of his clients who are deposed in slip and fall cases. This has helped Eric’s clients be more comfortable and perform better when they are deposed in these cases. Few lawyers would do that amount of extra work to ensure the best possible results for their clients.
If you have a premises liability case you would like to discuss with Eric, contact him here or by calling 240-467-5741.