Slip and Fall Cases

Slip and Fall Cases

In Central New York, slip and fall injuries happen more often in the winter months, but they can happen any time of the year. Wet floors in store entrances and other areas are all too common. Sometimes ice or soda machines can leak liquid onto the floor, or careless employees leave wet floors after mopping, or other shoppers drop fruits, vegetables or liquid products in aisles.

In every slip and fall case, the issue boil down to this: Did the property owner take "reasonable" measures to (1) prevent the slippery substance from being there; (2) inspect or check for slippery substances or other dangerous conditions; and (3) remove the slippery substance promptly when it was first noticed. If a slip and fall case goes to a jury, the jury will be instructed that the owner of the property has to take "reasonable" measures to assure that his property is "reasonably" safe. So it all boils down to what is "reasonable". And juries differ as to what is "reasonable", so these cases can be somewhat unpredictable.

The same "reasonableness" standard holds true for slip and falls on snow and ice. Did the landowner act reasonably in trying to timely remove snow and ice by plowing and salting his parking lots and walkways? If you can prove that the ice or snow which caused your fall had been on the walkway for several hours during business hours, you can probably win your case. Most juries would find that unreasonable. Most juries would say the owner should have gone out and salted, or gone out and inspected the sidewalk, at least once during that time period.

A recognized defense to slip and falls on snow and ice in New York is the "storm in progress" defense. If a landowner can show that the slip-and-fall victim slipped on newly fallen snow or newly formed ice during an on-going snow or ice storm, then he is generally not held liable. The law deems it unreasonable to expect a property owner to remove snow and ice as it is falling and forming.

Most slip and fall cases turn on whether the property owner had "notice" of the slippery condition. "Notice" is a legal term of art meaning that the property owner "knew or should have known" of the slippery condition. If the injured slip-and-fall victim can prove this, and the owner failed to remove or remedy the slippery condition, then the injured victim has usually proved that the owner did not act reasonably, and is liable for the injuries.

Some slippery conditions can't be avoided. For example, all store and restaurant owners have to mop their floors from time to time. The floor will obviously be slippery when wet. But the issue then becomes, did the owner place adequate warnings or barriers to prevent customers and patrons from falling victim to the slippery conditions?

Sometimes you don't have to show "notice". This is true especially where the landowner did something affirmatively to create the slippery condition. For example, the landowner might have installed a downspout so that it poured rainwater onto an area of the pavement that then froze up when the temperatures dipped below freezing. Even though the property owner might not have had "notice" of the ice, he can be held liable for having negligently installed the gutter or downspout so that it directed water into an area where it would freeze and cause a slipping hazard.

One aspect of slip and fall cases that confounds personal injury lawyers is that usually the slippery condition is gone, or is removed, before the lawyer can get photographs of it. It is much easier to prove a slip-and-fall cases with photos of the slippery surface. Now that many people carry cell phones with built-in cameras, more and more victims, or their loved-ones who are with them, think to take pictures of the slippery condition before it disappears.

The Auburn, New York slip and fall attorneys of Michaels & Smolak have recovered millions of dollars for clients injured in slip-and-fall accidents and for other injuries to cover their medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. If you or a loved one has slipped, fallen and been injured, CONTACT US for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation.