By David Peel
Every day we get calls about someone who has fallen on someone else’s property. There is an assumption that if you are hurt on someone’s property it is automatically their fault. This is not true.
As a matter of fact that might be the most widely held legal myth that I encounter. The truth is that you must prove liability against the property owner or the one in control of it if not the owner.
An example of such a problem may be an old rug with upturned edges that can cause a trip. The storeowner should be on a regular maintenance schedule regarding rugs and other hazards. However, one must also consider how obvious the problem was to the consumer. You see the consumer must not be more than 50 percent at fault for causing her own injuries. If so, according to comparative negligence in the Tennessee law, she would receive nothing.
One of the more unusual cases I’ve handled involved a rug but it was not a trip and fall. It was a pure slip and fall. But no the rug did not become loose, although that, can happen too. In this case, there had been a torrential rainstorm the day before and a small retailer had not changed out the rug from the day before. As a result, as people entered the store they were stepping on the rug and making the bottom of their shoes wet.
Not surprisingly, eventually someone stepped off the rug and their foot kept on going and there was a terrible fall with bad injuries. The storeowner through his insurance company and their attorneys did not believe our client. They said that the rug was laying flat and did not have wrinkles or holes in it. In fact the rug wasn’t all that old. So they thought that they were home free.
But I was able to show that my client could not have known that she would be walking out of the dry parking lot and stepping on a saturated rug. No one would anticipate that the rug would be applying water to your shoes rather than removing it from your shoes. I think the entire point of the rug is to make it safe to walk on site. During litigation I called the rug a “Moisture application device.” Eventually the case was taken care of without the need of a trial.
Keep an eye out for slip and fall hazards around your house or place of business. It is much cheaper and much better to simply prevent injuries from ever occurring in the first place rather than deal with clients that are being hurt. So whether you’re the victim of a slip and fall and find yourself on the ground, or someone falls in your store or home, take photographs immediately. Document the conditions because those conditions will change over time.
While liability is far from automatic, I have covered six-figure settlements in slip and fall cases against a variety of retailers and premises owners. But they are hard cases and we turn down more slip and falls and medical malpractice than any other type of injury cases.
So the perfect case in a slip and fall is essentially a trap. The owner knows all about it but doesn’t fix the problem, or the owner doesn’t know anything about it but it is very reasonably dangerous. And in medical malpractice cases, by the way, the easiest cases are where they cut off the wrong limb. Don’t laugh that has happened.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.
By David Peel