With slapstick banana-peel slips featured prominently in many comedy television shows and movies, many people assume that a slip-and-fall cannot be a serious injury. But the truth is much different. Each year, falls account for more emergency room visits than any other injury. Similarly, workplace falls account for more missed days and more workers’ compensation claims than any other cause of injury.
Strictly speaking, landowner liability claims are negligence cases: if the defendant breaches a legal duty, and that breach caused injury, the defendant is liable for damages. But slip-and-falls work a bit differently, at least in some respects.
In landowner liability cases, the nature of the duty typically depends on the reason the victim was on the premises or property:
- Trespassers: Landowners must not intentionally harm people who are on the land without permission, such as hunters who accidentally wander onto the property of another. The duty is enhanced based on certain criteria, including the victim’s age and the number of previous occurrences.
- Licensees: These people are not trespassers, but their presence on the land does not benefit the landowner in any way, such as guests of an apartment tenant. In these situations, the landowner must warn the licensee of any latent defects, like a loose floorboard or unsteady safety rail.
- Invitees: With regard to persons whose presence benefits the owner in any way, whether because they are customers or social invitees, the landowner has an affirmative duty to make the premises reasonably safe.
Some courts have abandoned the categorization approach in favor of a general duty of reasonable care that applied in essentially the same way in all situations.
In a car crash, cause is nearly always established by direct evidence. But in a landowner liability case, such evidence may not be available. Cause, which is basically knowledge of the defect and failure to remedy it, may be established by circumstantial evidence.
To return to the first illustration, a court held that the color of a banana peel is evidence of knowledge. In Anjou v. Boston Elevated Railway Company, the court ruled that since the victim slipped on a black banana peel, the jury could conclude that it had been on the floor for quite some time and the landowner had a duty to pick it up.
Falls cause serious injuries, and the landowners are often responsible for the ensuing damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Braunfels, contact our office. We do not charge upfront legal fees in a personal injury case.