Premises liability cases can be tricky. One of the most challenging issues is proving who had knowledge about the hazard that ultimately caused an injury. Typically, it comes down to who had superior knowledge. In a recent case out of our Nation’s capital, an appellate court considered the effect of the victim’s knowledge of the dangerous condition. The question was whether a plaintiff’s own knowledge of a hazard could preclude his claim against the premises owner. If you find yourself in a similar situation, let our Rogers slip and falls attorney answer your questions.
Dangerous home repairs
In the Washington, D.C. case, the defendant hired the plaintiff to perform some home repairs. In particular, he was asked to remove a mirror that had been glued to a wooden frame on the wall in the basement. After looking at the mirror, both men agreed that the best way to handle it was to pry the mirror from the wooden boards with a pry bar. However, when the plaintiff attempted to pry the mirror, it broke into several pieces. As the plaintiff was taking the glass shards to the trash, a piece sliced his wrist and severed ligaments.
Injured handyman files premises liability suit
Following his injuries, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit based on premises liability against the homeowner. He argued that the homeowner was the person who originally hung the mirror and, therefore, should have known that it would potentially break if the plaintiff attempted to remove it from the boards to which it was glued. On the other hand, the homeowner argued that the plaintiff was well aware of the risks inherent in carrying shards of glass.
The homeowner did not have superior knowledge of the danger
Ultimately, the court determined that both parties had equal knowledge regarding the inherent danger of prying the mirror from the boards and handling the broken glass. Because they had equal knowledge, the plaintiff was precluded from bringing a premises liability case against the homeowner. As the court determined, a plaintiff in a premises liability case must be able to demonstrate that the defendant had “superior knowledge” of the danger that ultimately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Slip and fall cases can be difficult to prove
Clients sometimes ask, “is it really necessary to hire an attorney if it is obvious I slipped and fell in a store?” The reality is, slip and fall cases can be very difficult to prove because fault is not always that obvious. Thousands of individuals are injured each year from slipping or tripping on something in a store or on someone’s property, many of those injuries very serious. Substances on the floor of a store can be very dangerous. Uneven sidewalks or misplaced items can lead to serious injuries, as well.
Nevertheless, it can be very difficult to prove all of the elements necessary to establish someone’s responsibility or liability for a slip and fall accident. This article will discuss some of the challenges of proving these types of claims. First, could the accident have been avoided? The first question you should ask yourself if you have been involved in a slip and fall accident is whether the accident could have been avoided. While in most cases, the answer may be yes, there are still some situations where nothing could have been done to avoid the injury.
For instance, when a property owner has no knowledge of a dangerous condition before your injuries were sustained, that owner may not be held liable for your fall. A common example is an overnight winter storm that creates icy conditions on the sidewalk in front of a store. If you slip on that sidewalk at 6:00 am before the store has opened and anyone has had the opportunity to observe the condition and remove the ice and snow, then the store owner will likely not be held responsible. If you have questions about proving knowledge, let our Rogers slip and falls attorney help.
The duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions
Each of us has a responsibility to, not only be aware of our surroundings but also to take steps to avoid dangerous conditions that are obvious or reasonably expected. That does not mean that a property owner does not owe, at least, some duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that his or her property is free from dangerous conditions that could result in a slip and fall injury. Determining whether the steps taken were, in fact, reasonable is where the ability to prove your case can become difficult. The “reasonableness” of a property owner’s actions will be balanced against the care that you were expected to use at the time of the accident. This is why slip and fall cases are not always as straightforward as they seem.
How to establish liability for a slip and fall injury
There are certain facts that you must be able to establish in order to prove a property owner is liable for your injuries in a slip and fall accident. If you can show that the property owner, or an employee of the property owner, either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition because any other “reasonable” person in his or her position would have known about it and fixed the problem. It must also be shown that the property owner did not, in fact, take steps to fix the dangerous condition. Another way to establish liability is to show that the property owner, or an employee, actually caused or created the dangerous condition. Let our Rogers slip and falls attorney review your potential claim.
If you have questions regarding slip-and-fall accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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