Slip and Fall Claims and the Reasonable Landlord
If you suffered a slip and fall or trip and fall due to an unsafe condition on someone’s property, you may feel you’re entitled to compensation for your medical bills and your pain and suffering. However, you must show more than the existence of an unsafe condition that caused your injury; you must prove that the landlord acted unreasonably. Generally speaking, a landlord has a duty to remove, repair or provide warning about a dangerous condition on a property. But there are a number of questions that must be answered before a court will hold a landlord legally responsible.
Would a reasonable person in the landlord’s position have discovered the unsafe condition? A landlord cannot get off the hook by pleading ignorance, unless it was reasonable for him not to know. To determine whether a landlord’s ignorance of a problem is excusable, we might ask:
- Would a reasonable inspection have revealed the condition?
- Did the landlord inspect the property thoroughly and at reasonable intervals?
- Did the condition arise before or after the last inspection?
- Did the landlord have in place a system by which visitors to the property could report problems?
If the court determines that it was unreasonable for the landlord not to know about an unsafe condition, the landlord is treated as if he had knowledge. The next question is:
Did knowledge of the unsafe condition create a duty to repair the condition or warn visitors? The general rule here is that a landlord must act if the unsafe condition is known to him but not open and obvious to a visitor. Here, we must ask:
- Would a reasonably intelligent person recognize the danger?
- Would a reasonably intelligent person who recognized the danger still be inclined to risk encountering the unsafe condition?
If the answer to the first question is no, the danger is considered hidden, and the landlord has a duty to the visitor. However, if the answer to the both questions is yes, a court could rule that the condition is likely to cause harm despite being obvious. The landlord may still have a duty, but there may be a question of the injured party’s own negligence. Our inquiry then moves on to the landlord’s response:
Did the landlord act reasonably with respect to the existence of the unsafe condition? The examination could include such questions as:
- Did the landlord provide a warning?
- Was the warning adequate for a reasonably intelligent and attentive visitor?
- Did the landlord have sufficient time to respond from the moment he knew or should have known about the unsafe condition to the moment of the accident?
- Was the landlord’s attempt to remediate the unsafe condition reasonable given the likelihood that a visitor might be hurt and the relative expense of other available remedies?
As you can tell from these questions, a slip and fall injury case is very fact specific. Two plaintiffs can be injured in substantially similar circumstances, but one or two facts can turn the case in the landlord’s favor. That’s why it is so vitally important that you consult an experienced attorney immediately after your accident. A knowledgeable and caring lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia is ready to evaluate your case for free.