Fell down 21 stairs when bannister pulled out of the wall...

by Cynthia
(Scranton, PA)

I presently rent a house in Scranton, PA. The very 1st week of December 2013 I was descending the stairs from the 2nd floor landing. I held onto the banister with my right hand before taking the 1st step - the hand rail is on left and not flush with 2nd floor. I took one step down and the bannister pulled toward me (it was loose and wobbly).

I tried to grab the hand rail with my left hand, however my foot then slipped from the bannister pulling out, and I fell down 21 stairs, all the way to the 1st floor. I called an Ambulance, as I could barely walk. I was seen by the ER doctor and had morphine administered for pain. The x-rays revealed no damage at that time.

My husband is afraid to sue for Medical expenses because he fears we'll be evicted. I now suffer daily with lower back pain, as well as an unsteady gait with sciatic pain to boot. I do not know how this will worsen and feel the landlord IS responsible.

I informed her of my accident and her idiotic reply was, "well, for the seven years we lived in this home no one ever fell down the stairs." I hung up the phone. It has almost been a year and the pain is not going away.

Logic tells me to sue, however, after reading so many stories I'm wondering what the odds are a lawyer will accept and win this case. I have a neighbor who can attest to the pain I was in, she saw me the next day when I was unable to walk.

Can we file a lawsuit against our landlord for medical expenses and for my pain? Can she evict us if we do? Was the fact the bannister pulled out a building code violation? Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Fell down 21 stairs when bannister pulled out of the wall...":

Cynthia (Scranton, PA):

From the facts you present, you appear to have the basis of a viable personal injury lawsuit against the landlord. Landlord and property owners (if different) have what is referred to as a "legal duty of care" to make sure the premises they rent are habitable and safe for residents.

That legal duty of care is a reasonable one. In your case, reasonable would have to include a previous notice from you or other tenants, or even a visitor, to the landlord notifying her about the loose bannister.

If the landlord had prior notice of the loose bannister and failed to repair it, then she would likely be liable for your medical bills and related expenses, including your pain and suffering. If though, the landlord didn't know about the loose bannister, or was notified very recently, the landlord may not be liable.

A landlord must know about a problem so he or she can repair it. In addition, a landlord must have a reasonable amount of time to repair a problem. For example, if you, another tenant, or a visitor notified the landlord only a few hours before you fell, then the landlord might not have had a reasonable amount of time to repair the bannister.

The landlord can not evict you because you sue her. She can though decide not to renew your lease at its expiration date. Therefore if you are on a month to month tenancy, the landlord can refuse to renew your lease, even if it's clear the landlord is doing so out of spite.

To determine whether the loose bannister was a building code violation, you will have to contact the City of Scranton's Licensing and Permits Department. Their direct phone number is: (570) 348-4193.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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