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$175,000 Settlement Reached for Client Who Fell at Rented Home

By: Scottsdale Injury Lawyers LLC March 18, 2024 no comments

$175,000 Settlement Reached for Client Who Fell at Rented Home

The injury attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers have obtained another outstanding result. Specifically, our injury lawyers have secured a $175,000 settlement. The settlement was for a client who fell at a home that he rented.

The client had lived at the rental home for several years. The home had a large wood deck attached to it. The deck was approximately three to four feet above ground. There were stairs to access the deck from the ground level.

The stairs had a wood railing on each side. However, the railings were very old and poorly constructed. The railings were also made with wood that was rotted. As a result, the railings were not sturdy.

As the client climbed the stairs, he lost his balance and grabbed the rail. The rail gave way and broke. This caused the client to fall awkwardly and he injured his shoulder as a result.

The Client’s Fall and Injury 

On March 31, 2022, the client was walking up the stairs to the deck on the north side of his rental property. As he ascended the stairs, he lost his balance. He then reached for the handrail on his left side to brace himself. However, when he did so it broke.

When the handrail broke, the client began falling from the stairs. He then reached for the railing on the perimeter of the deck and was able to grab it with his left hand. However, his weight and momentum were too much and his left arm was wrenched and stretched as he tried to save himself from falling.

He immediately felt extreme pain in his left shoulder. The client then landed hard on his upper back and left shoulder. In addition, he hit his head as he crashed to the ground.

The Facts about the Defective and Dangerous Handrail

The handrail was loose and deteriorating due to dry rot and other structural defects. Specifically, it was not properly constructed or to code. The top of the handrail was merely nailed in and there were no screws or bolts securing it in place. It also did not have a middle rail. It was exceptionally loose due to the deterioration of the wood.


Actual photo from client file showing handrail after the client’s fall.


Actual photo from client file showing inadequate fastener used to connect handrail.

The Prior Notice the Landlord Had of the Dangerous Condition

Notably, two months prior to the client’s fall, the landlord replaced the stairs due to deterioration. However, the landlord only performed a partial fix and did not secure the handrail properly. At that time, the landlord advised the client to “be careful” and that he would be back to complete the repairs. The landlord never completed the repairs and failed to secure the handrail.

Arizona Law and the Responsibility of Property Owners

Arizona law generally requires that property owners eliminate dangerous conditions on their properties that can cause injury. They are not required to eliminate all dangerous conditions just those that they know of or should know of. Sometimes, a property owner may not know that a dangerous condition exists.

Arizona law generally requires that property owners eliminate dangerous conditions on their properties that can cause injury.

A property owner must act reasonably and inspect his or her property for dangerous conditions and then correct them when possible. A property owner may be held responsible for an injury if he fails to reasonably inspect his property. However, when a property is rented to a tenant, which was the case for our client, the landlord has less access to the property and less reason to inspect it. In that situation the tenant is the one best-positioned to detect and address the dangerous condition. If a dangerous condition is found by the tenant then he should notify the landlord about the need for the repair or undertake the repair himself.

Click here to learn more about Arizona premises liability law and when someone can recover for his or her slip or fall injuries.

A Property Owner is Responsible for a Dangerous Condition that He or She Creates

A property owner will be responsible for a dangerous condition that causes injury if he or she created it. Obviously, if the property owner created the condition in the first instance, then he or she knew about it and had notice. This is what happened in the case we handled for the client. The landlord himself failed to repair the dangerous condition and created it by not constructing a working handrail. When a landlord undertakes repair responsibilities, the landlord will be responsible if those repairs are inadequate.

The Client’s Medical Treatment Immediately After the Fall Injury

On the same day as the fall, the client presented to the emergency department where his injuries were evaluated by a physician. The client complained of pain localized to the left shoulder, sharp in nature, a 7/10 in severity at rest, non-radiating and exacerbated by movement and positional changes.

X-rays were taken of his left shoulder. The client was diagnosed with the following: “acute pain of left shoulder and soft tissue injury of left shoulder.” The client was given a Toradol injection and sling for comfort.

The differential diagnosis included suspected soft tissue or rotator cuff injury. The client was discharged home with anti-inflammatories, Lidoderm patches and Voltaren gel. He was also instructed to follow up with an orthopedic physician.

One week later, the client presented to an orthopedic surgeon. The client described his pain as sharp and mostly in the anterior aspect of the shoulder. The client also relayed that his pain was exacerbated with reaching and sleeping. He also complained of muscle spasms and cramping.

The Injury Sustained From the Fall and Surgery Needed to Repair it

The orthopedic surgeon suspected a rotator cuff tear due to decreased strength exhibited by the client. The orthopedic surgeon ordered an MRI. The MRI revealed that the client suffered a massive full thickness supra and infraspinatus tear and biceps subluxation. He was diagnosed with a complete rotator cuff tear or rupture of left shoulder and subluxation of the long head of his biceps.

On July 21, 2022, the client underwent surgical repair. The surgical procedures included:

  • left shoulder arthroscopic rotator cuff repair
  • left shoulder arthroscopic subacromial decompression
  • left shoulder arthroscopic biceps tenodesis
  • left shoulder arthroscopic subscapularis repair

The client then underwent post-surgery physical therapy for approximately six weeks.

The Effect the Fall Had on the Client’s Life

Almost two years after the fall, the client still had symptoms from his injury. His daily baseline pain would fluctuate between 6-10 on a 10 scale. He needed to sleep on his left side and his shoulder pain would wake him 2-3 times per night. He also had to take a prescribed muscle relaxer each night in order to alleviate his pain enough to sleep.

The client continued to work as a construction superintendent. The nature of his work required him to lift heavy objects up to 75 pounds and perform manual labor. He was unable to complete his work duties without experiencing immense pain.

The Insurance Company Initially Denied Liability for the Fall

The insurance company initially denied liability and only offered $5,000. They labeled the claim as a nuisance value case. Nuisance value is a term used by insurance companies to describe a nominal amount they will pay to get rid of a frivolous claim.

The Claim Denial Letter the Insurance Company Sent

The relevant part of the letter the insurance company sent our office is below:

Mr. Piccuta,

In your letter you stated that when our named insured replaced the stairs, he did not secure the handrail and that is what caused your client to fall.  Whenever Mr. Schickel does a repair on his property, he takes photographs of the repair.  I am attaching the photographs taken at the time the stairs were replaced, please note even though the handrails are older, they are secured with braces and screws.  Your client had an obligation under the terms and condition of his lease agreement which states it is the tenant’s responsibility to notify the landlord if repairs or maintenance are needed.  Mr. Schickel was never notified of a problem with the handrail. …

We are sorry your client sustained an injury; however, Mr. Schickel was never notified of a problem or had the opportunity to do a repair.   With that being said at this time I am willing to offer a nuisance value of $5,000.00 to settle this claim with your client.


Actual photo from client file and sent by insurance company showing the stairs with bracing that did not exist at the time of the fall.

Actual photo from client file and received from insurance company showing fastening of the rail after the fall.


We Established Liability and Secured a Large Settlement for the Client

Our lead injury lawyer evaluated the photographs the insurance adjuster relied on in denying the claim and labeling it as a nuisance value case. The photos the adjuster provided showed bracing and bolts with metal hardware securing the handrail. It was immediately apparent to us that these photos were taken after the client’s fall. The insurance adjuster failed to pick up on this fact.

We contacted the insurance adjuster and pointed out that the photos we provided showed that none of the bracing was in place when the fall happened. Indeed, the photos they provided showed how the repair should have been done and apparently was done after our client’s fall. In other words, had the repair been completed as represented in the pictures the insurance company sent, the railing would not have failed and the client would not have been injured.

the photos they provided showed how the repair should have been done and apparently was done after our client’s fall.

We advised the insurance company that the landlord was not being truthful with them regarding the repairs he made. This was proven by their own documentation. Shortly after, the insurance company agreed to pay $175,000 to resolve the claim.

The Client Described the Settlement as Life Changing

When the client picked up his check at our office he was extremely thankful for the work we performed. He called the case life-changing. He told us he would use the money to purchase reliable transportation and to start a catering business with his wife. He also had plans to invest the rest.

The Client Left a Five Star Review

The client left a heartfelt five-star review for our firm online with google. The review is below:

Screen shot of five star review client left on-line.

Contact an Experience Scottsdale Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been injured in Scottsdale or anywhere in Arizona, contact our office today. Our injury attorneys specialize in serious injury cases. We have the experience needed to obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. A consultation is free and we only earn a fee if we recover for you. Someone is available to answer your call 24-7. Call (480) 900-7390.

About the author: The content on this page was provided by Scottsdale personal injury attorney and civil rights lawyer Tony Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Previously Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report).  Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout Arizona and California. He is a trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association, Scottsdale Bar Association, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Consumer Attorneys of California, among other organizations.

Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information on this page is attorney advertising. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.

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