Property owners are responsible for maintaining their property in safe conditions. If you slip and fall or trip and fall and are injured, the owner of the property can be held liable (Premises Liability) if it can be shown that they contributed to dangerous conditions, or did not remedy dangerous conditions, that resulted in the fall and injuries.
One of the most common conditions is a wet or slippery floor that is not properly marked. This is particularly common when shopping, especially in indoor malls. Slippery floors can be caused by cleaning or leaks – for example, rain coming through a hole in the roof or leaks from heating and cooling systems. Other things that can cause dangerous conditions are broken or damaged floors, loose carpeting, broken stair handrails, etc. Such conditions must also have warnings, such as wet floor signs. Falls can be caused by a single step that is not properly marked or illuminated. Outdoors, weather conditions and potholes can also cause falls. Another common occurrence in shopping malls are falls caused by faulty escalators.
Establishing that a slip and fall injury is the fault of the property owner can be difficult. Cases generally hinge on two things – whether the property owner should have reasonably known conditions were dangerous and either caused them or didn’t correct them, and whether the injured party should have seen or could have reasonably avoided the condition. This, of course, is why cleaning companies use wet floor signs and many buildings have stairs that are painted yellow or yellow and black.
To receive redress from a property owner, you need to be able to show that they caused the condition, knew of it and did nothing about it, or should have known about it. That essentially means common sense must be used. Special rules apply to government properties – which often include sidewalks, paths in parks, etc. Although the government does have a duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions, they also have broad legal immunity which can make a suit particularly difficult. Claims against the government must be brought sooner than those against individuals.
Standard of reasonableness
Applying the standard of reasonableness means thinking of things like how long the situation had been as it was at the time of the accident (i.e., did the landlord have time to notice it?). Or, if you trip over an object, was it reasonable for that object to be where it was – if you walk right past the slippery floor sign and trip over the cleaner’s mop, then it’s unlikely that you will have a case against the landlord or the cleaning company. On the other hand, if there’s just a mop left lying there, you might.
California uses comparative negligence, meaning anything you were doing that could have contributed to the fall lessens the award to which you may be entitled – things like talking on your cell phone or running. A higher standard is applied to escalators and property owners are always responsible for maintaining their escalators. For example, if an escalator suddenly stops for no reason, causing a trip and fall accident, the owner is likely to be liable.
Attorney Josh Cohen
While it can be difficult to prove a property owner’s liability for a slip and fall accident, if you or a loved one has been involved in one, it is worth discussing with a skilled and experienced attorney like Josh Cohen. Contact our office today for consultation.