Slip and Fall: A Primer

I receive a lot of questions asking whether one has a valid case for slip and fall.  Often there is a fall on private property causing injury, but while these elements are essential, they are not enough.  A landowner is not always responsible for a flaw in the property that leads to a fall.  Occasionally weather, or another’s mistake can cause a temporary flaw that the landowner may or may not be responsible for.

So, when might a landowner be responsible for a fall.  Here are the most common scenarios for a landowner to be legally responsible:

  • The owner of the property or his or her employee, caused the flaw in the surface by either damaging it or spilling something onto it, or otherwise causing something to be underfoot;
  • The owner of the property or his or her employee knew of the flaw on the property and did nothing to correct it;
  • The owner of the property or his or her employee should have known of the flaw in the property because a reasonable landowner would occasionally inspect his or her property and repair any known flaws.

In the first two scenarios, the landowner knows of the flaw either because he or she caused it or because he was told directly.  In the third scenario, often the most litigated, we have to ask if the “reasonable” landowner should have known of the flaw and repaired it.  Considerations include:

  • What is the nature of the object – size, shape, consistency;
  • Does the landlord have a routine inspection schedule? Is it sufficient?
  • How long has the object or flaw been present?  Would a routine inspection have identified it?;
  • Could a simple barrier or warning have prevented injury?;
  • Was there a legitimate reason for the object’s presence?

So you see, a seemingly simple slip and fall can become a very fact intensive matter.  Report all falls immediately to someone of authority so that the condition is documented.  If the flaw is located in your apartment building, immediately notify the landlord or owner so that their knowledge is established.

This primer is an introduction only and does not cover all potential scenarios.  As you can see, a slip and fall can be very fact intensive and you need to speak with an attorney to determine your rights.  If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact our office for a free initial consultation.