Premises Liability, Slip and Falls

Zhiping Yang, dol 12-9-08, fall locationPremises liability cases occur at many places such as grocery stores, department stores, pharmacies, hospitals, parking lots, sidewalks, college dorms, apartment buildings, cruise ships, and even at someone’s home.  A property owner or manager is responsible for providing a safe and secure environment, including regular maintenance and inspection of the property. You may have been injured while on the job, or may have just been going about your business as a lawful customer, visitor, or invitee to the property.

The most important pieces of evidence in a premises liability case are photographs and videos taken during or immediately after the accident.  You may be able to acquire security tapes, but you or your attorney will need to ask for them as soon as possible.  It will be difficult to take photos, as you will be seeking medical attention, but perhaps friends or family can take photos right away – it’s important.

Premises liability cases

Premises liability cases can range from “slip and fall accidents” to lack of security, poor maintenance, poorly designed stores and displays, poorly designed, marked and protected stairways, window, decks, porches and balconies, lack of railings, and construction site hazards. Injured parties include adults, children, able-bodied persons, and persons with physical challenges.

Negligent security cases arise when places like college dormitories, hotels, and apartment buildings do not provide adequate security systems for residents.

The most common premises liability case is the result of a “slip and fall” accident, where a property owner or manager is negligent in maintaining the property, and a person is injured because of that negligence. There are many ways in which you may end up falling on someone’s property. Perhaps you slipped on a wet or greasy floor, or that you fell over something in an aisle, or that you tripped on carpeting that was not tacked down.

Other examples of premises liability cases that I have worked on include the creation of dangerous conditions by renting to too many people (resulting in overcrowding and a child falling off of a deck after climbing onto items stored on the deck), installing an unprotected utility box adjacent to a Vermont ski slope (resulting in injuries to a skier who slid into the box), and failure to maintain smoke detectors (resulting in serious burns and permanent disabilities to tenant when smoke detectors did not activate).

For falls that are related to the accumulation of snow or ice, I was pleased that in 2010 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court abolished the “natural accumulation” defense, resulting in the requirement that property owners keep their properties reasonably safe, regardless of whether the snow or ice was a “natural” or “unnatural” accumulation of snow or ice. The decision will hopefully result in better winter time maintenance of properties and less injuries.

Slip and falls are difficult cases

Slip and falls are difficult cases, as juries often return verdicts for defendants and insurance companies are reluctant to settle for reasonable amounts. If you are interested in pursuing compensation for your injuries, it is important that your injuries are serious, to justify the time and expense it will take to bring your case to conclusion. I have handled a wide range of premises liability cases, and will let you know if your case is worth pursuing. If it is, I look forward to representing you.

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