Slip, Trip & Fall Injuries- Premises Liability
Injuries that occur from a trip and fall or slip and fall are legally classified as premises liability claims. Premises liability claims and premises liability lawsuits arise from injuries that occur on another’s property or land. If those injuries are caused by an unreasonably dangerous condition on the land or property or the unreasonable negligence of the person who or owns or controls the property, then the injured party may be able to recover damages.
Premises Liability Claims Include More than Trip and Falls and Slip and Falls
Premises liability claims are not limited to slip and falls or trip and falls. A premises liability claim could arise from any dangerous condition on another’s property that causes an injury. The following examples are all types of premises liability claims:
- Tree or tree branch falls on someone
- Trampoline accident or injury
- An exposed nail that pierces someone’s foot
- Product from a store shelf that falls on someone
- A chair in a restaurant that breaks or collapses
- A sharp corner or object that causes a cut, laceration or worse
- Furniture that tips or falls over on someone
- Defective stairs that fail to support normal use
- Balconies and decks that collapse
- Walls and fences that fall over on someone
- Holes, ditches or uncovered openings that someone falls into
- An unsafe electrical outlet or wiring that causes electrocution or burn injury
- Inflatable slide or inflatable bounce house that causes an injury
There are too many examples to list them all. However, the above examples show just how different premises liability claims can be.
Secondary Claims May Exist With a Premises Liability Injury
Often times, someone who has suffered a premises liability injury may have additional claims. In many situations a secondary claim can be made for product defect or failure to maintain. This would hold true for any premises liability claim where a defect in the product contributed or caused the injury. For example, in the above descriptions, a product defect claim could be made if:
- the product on the store shelf fell because one of the brackets failed due to a manufacturing defect
- the chair collapsed because it was defectively made or designed
- furniture tipped over because it was defectively designed
- an electrical outlet failed because the outlet itself was defective
- the bounce house or trampoline had a design or manufacturing defect
In addition, in the above examples, other claims could be made against any party who had a duty to maintain the property but failed to do so or themselves created the dangerous condition. For example:
- if a landscaping company had a duty to cut down rotted trees and branches but failed to do so
- an electrician was tasked with installing the electrical outlet and wiring and did so unsafely
- a contractor or architect designed or installed the dangerous step or balcony
- a property manager was responsible for eliminating dangers like open holes and trenches on the property
- an independent safety inspector was tasked with a final walkthrough after completion of construction and missed the dangerous nail
A Personal Injury Attorney Should Evaluate Your Premises Liability Case
In any situation where there is a premises liability claim, a skilled personal injury attorney should evaluate it to see if there are secondary claims against other parties. This is especially true if the property owner or person in control of the property has limited insurance or funds from which to recover. Adding an additional claim against a different party should be done in all cases where it is possible to do so. It provides an additional theory and another source from which to recover. This is especially important when someone suffers a catastrophic injury. Most commercial insurance policies have limits of 1 or 2 Million Dollars. Someone who suffers a catastrophic injury is typically entitled to far more.
The Person Who Owns Or Controls the Property is Responsible For Your Safety
A property owner has a responsibility to make his or her property reasonably safe for those who visit it. This responsibility not only extends to the property owner, but also extends to a person in control of the property. For example, a person who leases a commercial property to run a retail business, has a duty to make the property safe for its retail customers. Likewise, a person who leases land to run an equestrian center has a duty to make it safe for the individuals he or she invites to ride there. In both situations, the person who leases the property may have a greater responsibility than the property owner. The person leasing the space has possession of it and is there on a day to day basis to control and maintain it.
Your Status Determines if an Injury Attorney Can Recover for Your Premises Liability Injury
Under Arizona law, the responsibility or duty of someone who controls a property, to keep it safe from dangerous conditions, varies depending on the status of the person visiting it. Whether or not someone can recover damages for a premises liability injury depends on whether the person on the property was: invited there for business purposes (invitee), a social guest (licensee) or a trespasser. The amount of care a property owner owes may also vary depending on whether or not the person on the property is an adult or child.
Arizona Premises Liability Law and the Duty Owed to a Customer, Invitee or Guest
Arizona law holds that a business owner or property owner is required to take reasonable steps to warn, safeguard or correct, an unreasonably dangerous condition that he or she had notice of. This is specifically set forth in Arizona’s revised jury instructions (5th) entitled “Premises Liability 1 and 1A.” Of particular importance is the phrase “had notice of.” This means that a business owner or property owner must actually have had notice of the dangerous condition or should have had notice of the dangerous condition. In other words, an individual must: 1) know that a dangerous condition exists and have failed to correct it or 2) that the dangerous condition existed long enough to where a reasonable owner would have discovered and fixed it.
Under Arizona law, there are three ways to establish that the owner “had notice of” the unreasonably dangerous condition. They are as follows:
- The owner or one of his or her employees/agents created the dangerous condition themselves;
- The owner or one of his or her employees/agents knew of the condition in time to fix it or warn of it; and
- The dangerous condition existed long enough to where the owner or his or her agents should have discovered it and known about it.
The law described above makes perfect sense. The best way to explain the three ways on how to satisfy the “had notice of” requirement, is to apply them to facts. Imagine this scenario, a customer at a grocery store slips and falls on a spilled soda. The owner will have “had notice of” if he or his employees spilled the soda themselves; the owner or his employees saw someone else spill the soda and failed to clean it up in a reasonable time; and the spilled soda was on the ground long enough to where a reasonable owner or his employees would have seen it and cleaned it up.
In the last scenario, an owner may not escape responsibility if they turn a blind eye to safety. Almost all retail business have policies and procedures to perform visual inspections of the floors for slip and fall hazards. For example, in grocery stores, employees are required to perform visual sweeps of the store specifically looking for dangerous conditions. These visual sweeps include the entire store and are at set intervals such as every 15 minutes or every half hour. The store then creates a written log setting forth that the sweep was performed, the time it was performed and who performed it. If a store does not have this procedure in place, or if they fail to follow this procedure, then they can be held responsible.
Obviously, a business owner or property owner may not be held responsible for a dangerous condition it did not “have notice of” or time to correct. Taking the above example, a store owner should not be responsible for a soda spilled by a customer causing an injury to another, if he or she did not have adequate time to locate it and clean it up. If a customer spills a soda and another person slips and falls on that liquid within seconds or a minutes of the spill, that would not provide the owner or his or her employee/agents with adequate time to locate it and clean it up. In that scenario, the owner could not be said to have acted unreasonably or negligently and will not be legally responsible.
If an injured customer or someone invited to a business is able to establish that the owner “had notice of” or should have “had notice of” the dangerous condition and failed to act to correct the dangerous condition, then a premises liability lawsuit may be advanced and a recovery sought for the injured person.
Can Someone Recover for an Injury on a Property if They Were Trespassing?
Under Arizona law, the owner of a property or business does not owe a trespasser any duty to keep a property safe. A trespasser is a person who goes onto property without permission. There are only two ways which a property owner may be liable to an injured trespasser who sustains a premises liability injury. The first way, is if the owner “willfully or wantonly” caused an injury to the trespasser. This essentially mans that the property owner wanted the injury to occur or acted deliberately so that the trespasser was injured.
The second way a property owner may be liable to a trespasser is if the trespasser was a child. However, for this to occur, the property owner must have created a circumstance or condition that was dangerous to children and the property owner must have known, or should have known, that the condition was likely to harm children. In sum, if a child has trespassed and sustained an injury, the child may be able to recover where an adult would not. It is important to have any such situation analyzed by a skilled Arizona personal injury attorney.
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury due to a slip and fall, trip and fall or other premises liability claim, contact our firm today. A skilled personal injury attorney will analyze your case and provide a free consultation. If our firm decides to take your case, it will cost you nothing and we will only charge a fee if we recover for you.