If you were recently in a store or out in the public and you slipped or tripped on something and fell, you need a good lawyer. Slip or trip and fall cases present a variety of issues that if not thoroughly explored, may lead to loss of time and money.
One of the threshold issues with slip and fall cases is whether the owner of the property owed the person who fell a legal duty of care. The owner/occupier/lessor of premises is under a duty to exercise ordinary care in the use or maintenance of the premises in order to avoid exposing persons to an unreasonable risk of harm. RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS, §343; Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968).
This issue is typically easy to overcome as once a person steps foot on someone else’s property with permission, it is presumed that that person or entity should avoid exposing the victim to risk of harm.
The next and far more difficult issue to prove is whether the owner did something that an ordinary person would not have or did not do something that an ordinary person would have. For example, if the floor is wet, an ordinary person would likely take steps to put those around the wet spot on notice that the floor is wet. They’d do this to warn people to be careful. Most defendants in these types of cases are corporate entities such as grocery stores, retail shops, etc. However, governmental entities such as cities, counties and states may also breach this duty.
Governmental entities are responsible for damages caused by unsafe conditions. Gonzalez v. City of San Jose (2004) 125 Cal. App. 4th 1127, 1138-1139.
Here’s where it gets tricky. If you can prove that the defendant owed you a duty to do something (or not do something) and that they did not (or did) and your injuries were caused by it, that’s only the start.
If you can prove all of the above, the defendant can defend the claims based on a few interesting theories.
First, if the defendant can prove that you did something negligent and that action was the actual reason why you slipped or tripped, you may lose or get substantially less. For example, if the floor was wet and there was wet floor signs, if you walked through carelessly, the defendant would blame your conduct and not the water on the floor. This is an issue the jury would decide. If the jury found you to be 100% at fault, you would recover nothing.
Second, if the wet floor or other thing that led to the fall was open and obvious, you may lose. Open and obvious means that any reasonable person would have seen the defect and avoided it. This happens a lot when there is something on the floor that is so obvious that to walk through it anyway would be unreasonable.
Finally, a property owner is not liable for damages arising from a “minor, trivial or insignificant” defect in the property. Whiting v. National City, 9 Cal. 2d 163 (1937). This is another issue for the jury to decide. If they find it was minor, trivial or insignificant, you may lose.
With a complete understanding of these issues, it’s important that you reach out to an attorney to fully evaluate your slip/trip and fall case. Fry Law Corporation is here to do just that. For slip and falls you really need an aggressive attorney who is willing to analyze these issues and not be afraid to present them to a jury.