SLIP / TRIP AND FALL - DANGEROUS AND UNSAFE CONDITIONS

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"HE WHO HESITATES IS LOST."  

The above proverb has real application in premises liability cases.  Next to obtaining proper medical care for your injuries, the most important single thing you can do in a premises liability case is, if  possible, to quickly document (preserve evidence of) the dangerous condition.  

Typically, the best way to preserve evidence is to photograph the scene with plenty of photographs from all different angles and varying distances (closeups of objects, middle-range and distance shots).  


Next, if possible, identify witnesses, especially neutral witnesses, who can testify as to the dangerous or unsafe condition.  

For example, if you slip and fall on water in a grocery store, obtain the first and last name, address and telephone number of nearby shoppers who can testify as eye witnesses of their observations of the dangerous condition or the fall).

Further, you may contact a friend, family member, or a coworker to come to the scene and observe and/or photograph the dangerous or unsafe condition.

Sometimes, it is wise take and record measurements of objects (and photograph the measuring devise on or next to the object), as, for example, if you tripped and fell due to a sudden rise in elevation on a sidewalk or walkway.  Then photograph the measuring devise such as a ruler that demonstrates in inches the sudden rise in elevation.  

A lawyer who is contacted can step in and facilitate the documenting process.

You may be wondering, "Why all the hurry?"  The reason is, that the law in California does not permit you to introduce into evidence that the possessor of land repaired the dangerous condition in order to prove negligence. (The reason or rationale for this exclusionary evidence rule is to encourage possessors of land to make their property safe without fear that such repairs or removal so will be used in a court of law to prove their negligence).   Knowing this rule of exclusion of evidence, a possessor will often do their utmost to promptly fix or repair the dangerous condition before you have the opportunity to document the unsafe condition.

Therefore, you are urged act immediately to record and document the defective condition. You, or, even better, a friend, a family member, an attorney, or a private investigator should immediately make observations, photograph the scene and take measurements.

Note: There are a quite a number of exceptions and potential work-arounds to the above-described exclusionary rule. For example, evidence of subsequent repairs may be admissible to prove certain matters other than negligence.  But, documenting the dangerous condition before the danger is removed may, in many cases, still be vital to establishing a strong or viable case of negligence.

Have your friend, family member, or co-worker contact an attorney for advice on what to do so that you can focus on obtaining medical care and treatment for your injuries. (You do not want to give the appearance that you care more about the amount of recovery in your case than your injuries. Stated another way, when an injured victim contacts their attorney before their doctor, some may question the person's priorities and motivations).

However, even if you did not document or photograph the hazardous condition right away, and even if the dangerous condition has been repaired, replaced or removed, you should, nevertheless, contact a lawyer.  There may well be other ways to prove your claim.


PREMISES LIABILITY LAW:


A Possessor of land has a duty to use reasonable care to maintain his or her property in safe condition or, alternatively, adequately warn of the danger.

“Premises” means land, the building on the land, or other structures on land.

“Possessor” means the person who owned, possessed or controlled the Premises.  Isaacs v. Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112, 134; Alcaraz v. Vece (1997) 14 Cal.4th 1149, 1162.

A Possessor is liable by negligently using and/or maintaining the premises which  causes harm to a person or property (See CACI 1000).  Negligent means that the Possessor did not exercise “ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person…[CA Civil Code 1714(a)] thereby exposing persons to an unreasonable risk of harm. (Brooks v. Eugene Burger Management Corp. (1989) 215 Cal.App.3d 1611, 1619; (1997) 14 Cal.4th 1149, 1156.  Stated another way, the Possessor must use reasonable care to keep the Premises in reasonably safe condition or adequately warn of the danger.   Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 674.

Thus a Possessor has a duty to use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of the dangerous condition.

But see Trivial Defect  Rule.

“The proper test to be applied to the liability of the possessor of land ... is whether in the management of his property he has acted as a reasonable man in view of the probability of injury to others ....” (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 119.

See also issue of lack of similar accidents before the subject incident occurred.

EXAMPLES:

Dangerous conditions come in a myriad of forms: I will identify a few examples: An old banana on floor for a long time (Seriously, this kind of thing does happen); a collapsing balcony; a sudden elevation rise on a sidewalk; a stairway that is not built to code; a tripping hazard; an attractive nuisance (often involving minors and children); slippery substances on the floor at a store; a leaky refrigeration system at a grocery store; bottles or boxes falling off of a shelf and striking a passing shopper; a falling tree; a falling object; inadequate lighting;
lack of warning sign; failure to take reasonable safety precautions; lack of reasonably necessary security; health gym liability;
an amusement park ride that malfunctions, etc.   See also Fire, Explosion, and Electrocution.

If you've been the victim of a premises liability incident, contact Christian lawyer, Matthew B. Tozer for a free consultation.


Disclaimer:
The information provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change.  This advice is based on California law.  No legal advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended.  The information provided is from general sources, and I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of any reader. It is recommend that readers of this information consult with their own counsel prior to relying on any information on this website.

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