Category Archives: Premises Liability

Tips to Prevent Slip and Fall Injuries

PREVENTING SLIP AND FALL INJURIES IN THE WINTER

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 1 million Americans are injured, and 17,000 people die, as a result of slip and fall injuries every year.

Winter tends to be the worst weather for work related slip and fall injuries. OSHA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working together on a public education effort aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather.
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Slip and Fall: When is a Property Owner Liable?

Written by Matthew Zullo

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Everyone has had the experience of either slipping or tripping and falling to the ground. Thankfully, the large majority of these incidents occur without causing serious injury, but serious injuries do occur to people of all ages as a result of slipping or tripping and falling. These injuries can occur on a flight of stairs, a patch of ice, an uneven sidewalk, a slippery supermarket floor, an improperly leveled elevator or an improperly maintained floor at a home or business. Every visitor to a home or public place expects a certain level of safety and the owner of a property may be legally responsible if their negligence led to an injury. Owners of property have an obligation to take reasonable steps to maintain their property in a safe manner and to warn visitors/patrons of unexpected conditions that may be a hazard.

The basic types of premises liability accidents involve slip and falls on wet, icy or slippery substances on a floor, parking lot or sidewalk. A trip and fall can occur as a result of an uneven sidewalk, an elevator which is not level or where an object blocks or impedes a person’s path. A step and fall accident occurs when someone falls into a hole in the ground which they could not reasonably expect.

While a property owner has a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to maintain their property in a safe condition and to warn visitors of unexpected and hazardous conditions, it is incumbent upon the accident victim to prove that the property owner had notice of the condition. Notice to the property owner can be established by either demonstrating by witnesses or documents that the property owner had actual knowledge of the condition or through reasonable inspections, should have known that the condition was present and posed a hazard. The length of time a condition existed typically bears on the question of notice. The longer a condition exists, the greater the likelihood that the owner should have observed the condition. Where an owner creates a dangerous condition, they are deemed to have notice of the condition, such as hosing down a sidewalk on a cold morning or spilling a slippery substance on a floor and not cleaning it or by building an improper staircase.

Other conditions that may establish negligence have to do with over waxed floors, torn carpeting, lack of railings on steps, inadequate lighting and obstructions in aisles or walkways.

In cases involving municipalities, such as a trip and fall on a defective sidewalk, there are different laws for each municipality regarding notice and who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk. Generally, it is vital that you act promptly in all types of premises liability cases in order to preserve evidence and investigate the source of the defect or hazard. In cases involving a municipality, urgent action is required as there is a strict ninety days to file a notice of claim against the city, town or village. In such cases, failure to act swiftly will forever bar a claim for personal injury.

While slip/fall cases are common, it takes an attorney who thoroughly knows the case law, municipal laws and all the code rules and regulations that may apply to successfully litigate a premises liability matter for one seriously injured.

Holiday Shopping Crimes and Premises Liability

With Halloween a memory and Thanksgiving coming at us fast, the holiday shopping season will be here before you can blink. Every year the process becomes ever-more hectic, the crowds get bigger and bigger, and people seem to shell out more cash for more expensive stuff. But with this somewhat chaotic season comes some dangers that people tend to overlook, and if those dangers are overlooked by the establishments people are shopping at, they can be on the hook for liability should things go wrong.

While shopping this holiday season, malls and shopping centers that fail to take measures to ensure a patron’s safety may be responsible for injuries inflicted on them by third-parties.  Every year, shoppers become the victims of assault, robbery, physical abuse, sexual abuse, kidnapping, trampling, carjacking and other violent crime.  Owners of commercial property, who invite the public onto their property for the purposes of gain or profit, have an obligation to ensure the safety of those who chose to accept the invitation.

Every premises liability claim against a landowner, whether it be the result of a slip and fall on a puddle, or an assault by a third party on the premises, requires a showing that the landowner had notice of the dangerous or unsafe condition, that the dangerous condition was not repaired, eliminated, or warned of, and that failure to fix or warn of the dangerous condition was the cause of the injuries.  Specifically, in a case in which a patron at a store or shopping mall is assaulted, or is otherwise the victim of a violent crime, a showing that the landowner knew, or had reason to know, that the safety of its patrons were likely to be in danger, is required.

A mere showing of prior criminal conduct at a shopping mall is insufficient for the owners to be on notice of a risk of harm to its patron’s.  The mall or shopping center must have notice of prior incidences of criminal behavior by third parties that put the safety of its patrons at risk.  In one instance, a wife and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Skouras, exited a shopping mall with packages they had purchased inside.  While loading their car, a vehicle pulled alongside.  The driver reached out of the window and grabbed the strap of Mrs. Skouras’ purse.  The car began to drive away, dragging Mrs. Skouras to the ground, and Mr. Skouras quickly fell to the ground to aid her.  After unsuccessfully attempting to exit the mall parking lot, the driver returned to the scene of the crime and, after attempting again attempting to exit the parking lot, ran over Mr. Skouras, eventually causing his death.  The New York Appeals Court dismissed the lawsuit brought against the mall, claiming the mall failed to take security measure to protect Mr. and Mrs. Skouras, but finding that the criminal acts were not reasonably foreseeable.  The Court’s decision in this case was instructed by the fact that previous criminal acts at the subject mall were either non-violent or dissimilar.  Evidence showed multiple instances of non-violent theft at the mall, and an assault outside the parking area of the mall.

However, liability of an owner for one’s injuries exists where that landowner can reasonably foresee the criminal act perpetrated upon you.  A landowner can “reasonably foresee” a criminal act where it can be demonstrated that similar violent crimes have been perpetrated in the past.  The greater the similarity of previous situations to the crime at issue, the greater the likelihood that the mall or shopping center could have foreseen the crime.  A mall or shopping center that could reasonably foresee a crime perpetrated against its patrons, has an obligations to take precautions to protect their patrons. 

An example of the requirement of similar previous instances is demonstrated by the story of a young boy who brought a lawsuit to recover for injuries suffered when he was assaulted outside of a shopping mall.  In this instance, there was a history of “gangs of youths” loitering and engaging in fighting outside of the video arcade in the mall.  In this instance, the young man was attacked in similar fashion, outside of the arcade.  Finding reason to believe that the mall owner could reasonably foresee the assault on the young man, New York’s Appellate Court rejected the mall owner’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit. 

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If it can be shown that the injuries suffered from a violent crime were reasonably foreseeable, the owner of a mall or shopping center is responsible to compensate you for your injuries, provided they could have prevented the crime by simply taking minimal precautions.  These include things like hiring sufficient security, employing security cameras, providing adequate exterior lighting, and placing emergency phones or call boxes in accessible areas. 

The lack of basic safety measures may be grounds for claims of negligence against the owner of a shopping mall or store. If you or your loved one was injured in an incident in which security seemed faulty in New York, make sure you consult with personal injury attorney that specializes in premises liability.

So good luck with your shopping this year, and all of us at RGLZ hope all of you have a great holiday season!