New York Slip and Fall Claims: Owner Liability for Dangerous Conditions
New York is an incredibly diverse city, chock-full of history and a hodgepodge of buildings from different eras. While this intricate jigsaw puzzle of architecture can make exploring the city quite a visual adventure, it also means that the modern view of safety is not always incorporated into premises by property owners.
Combine these structural challenges with the logistical difficulties of keeping premises in good condition considering New York’s size and climate, and it is no surprise that slip and fall accidents are a daily occurrence throughout the Big Apple.
When Can a Property Owner Be Held Responsible In a Slip and Fall Suit?
“Slip and fall” or “trip and fall” claims are a specific subset of premises liability law. The key to grasping premises liability law is an understanding that owners (or possessors) of a given building, lot, storefront, etc. have a reasonable duty to watch out for the safety of those likely to enter their premises.
Slip and fall accidents typically occur when some hazardous condition is overlooked by a property owner. Perhaps there is an unfixed tear in the carpet, uneven flooring or a narrow staircase. Maybe poor lighting makes it difficult to see the ground, or there are obstructions littering a walkway. Failure to clean up or warn of a wet floor is a disturbingly common cause of slip and fall accidents.
When the party responsible for maintaining the premises (usually the owner or occupant) knows of a dangerous condition, or should have known of it, but failed to correct it before it caused a trip and fall injury, that party can be held liable for monetary damages arising out of the injury. So when, exactly, is a property owner liable for a dangerous condition? If the owner directly created the dangerous condition, he or she is almost always liable for resulting injury, for instance, if a restaurant owner’s own employee spilled a container of sauce that causes a slip and fall accident.
Even if a premises owner or possessor did not create a hazardous condition, he or she must correct it or face liability if they discovered and did nothing about it: picture a floor soaked from customers tracking in snow.
In most instances, owners or their agents have no actual knowledge of a hazard. Even then, they may be held liable for a slip and fall when they should have discovered the hazard. Owners and possessors of property have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Part of this duty is a responsibility to conduct periodic inspections to ferret out unsafe conditions. How often such inspections must be completed (which may be no more than a cursory glance around for certain types of property) depends on a variety of factors, including the type of property, pedestrian traffic and the weather conditions. While this determination is rarely clear cut, it is based on reasonableness. In other words, did the property owner live up to the same standards that would be expected of a reasonable person in the same situation? If not, trip and fall liability may be established.
Supermarket “Slip and Falls”
Department store accidents and supermarket slip and falls are quite common in New York City. Commercial proprietors in particular have a keen responsibility to account for safety due to the general invitation to members of the public to enter their place of business.
Like other property owners, store owners have a duty to maintain their stores in a reasonably safe condition – which includes the duty to inspect for hazardous conditions, and remedy or clean the hazardous conditions if necessary. Whether a store owner has acted reasonably in an attempt to avoid a trip and fall is based on a variety of factors, such as; how long has the hazardous existed, when did the store discover the hazard, and did the store warn/inform customers of the hazard? These factors are obviously not an exhaustive list as ultimately the question is whether or not the store’s actions were reasonable given the circumstances.
Contact a Trip and Fall Attorney Today
If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident, contact an experienced New York personal injury attorney. Your attorney can help you acquire the compensation you deserve and improve safety for everyone by holding property owners accountable for dangerous conditions.