Premises Liability: or That Time When I Slipped at the Store and Broke my Ankle

Premises LiabilityAlmost everywhere you walk, someone has a duty to make sure you don't hurt yourself. Whether you are invited to a store's grand opening or you break into the store at night, there are different laws if something should happen to you while on someone else's property. While this area of law is in depth and complex, it can essentially be broken down into two categories: invitees and trespassers. If you trespass, the law is straightforward – the land owner is not liable for any injuries you sustain while on their property. (Although there is an exception to that rule –known as the attractive nuisance. We'll save that discussion for another day.) If you're invited (e.g. you're shopping at a store, etc.) – the land owner has the responsibility to reasonably discover any potential hazards on their property and fix them to the best of their ability.

Just recently we settled a case of premises liability for a client. She walked out of a doctor's office around 6:00 AM (while it was still dark outside) after an overnight sleep apnea test, and headed into the parking lot toward her car. The outside lights were burnt out around her, and as she stepped down onto an oddly shaped ramp – otherwise invisible without the lighting - she fell and broke her ankle. After a thorough investigation, we were able to bring a successful claim against both the doctor's office and the office park for failing to fix the burnt out lights and for having a ridiculously designed ramp leading to the parking lot. While our client would have preferred not to have been injured, she was able to obtain significant compensate for the injuries she sustained.

Slip and Fall cases are some of the most difficult to prove. They are always second-guessed and universally faced with - what we like to call – the klutz defense. But legitimate cases abound – and when significant injury occurs – should be adequately investigated and advanced.

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