Slip and fall at a residence owned by my business...
I am being sued because a real estate agent that attended an open house fell and injured her knee when she didn't notice that there was a step-down (approx. 4-5 inches) at the doorway into the next room. I purchased the home through my LLC and did cosmetic changes only. The threshold was there and all we did was replace the old laminate with new.
As far as I know the house is about fifty yrs old and to my knowledge no other accidents ever occurred as a result of this floor transition. She claims she fell in an area where the floors are the same color, but I have two witnesses that saw her fall where there are 18 inch light tan tiles stepping down into a dark laminate wood floor.
It seems to me that these types of transitions are common, as I have two in my home and know two family members that also have them, as well as a neighbor.
If they are common, then it is reasonable to assume that a professional real estate agent who is familiar with many different floor plans, and routinely walks through homes, has a responsibility to pay attention to where he/she is walking, as that is a large part of what she does for a living.
Does she have a valid case? What's the breakdown of liability and negligence in this case? Can anything be done in our defense? Thank you for any perspective you can give.
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ANSWER for "Slip and fall at a residence owned by my business...":
You have a valid argument in that those types of transitions are common in many homes, especially older ones. It is reasonable to assume a professional real estate agent should be familiar with many different floor plans. Moreover, it is possible the agent walked through the home on one or more occasions before she was injured.
From the facts you present, there does not appear to be any negligence involved.
As a property owner, you have a legal duty of care to do everything within reason to ensure your property is safe for those who legally enter upon the property. This includes "Invites."
Invitees are people who come onto a piece of real property (real estate) as opposed to personal property, to engage in a business activity which benefits the invitee and property owner. In this case the real estate agent was an invitee.
To have been negligent would require a showing by the real estate agent the property was dangerous and that danger was not able to be readily discerned by the agent.
For example, if the steps leading down to the basement appeared to be in good condition, and the real estate agent walked down those steps, and as she did, one of he steps collapsed, resulting in her injury, then you would likely be liable as a result of your failure to have repaired or replaced that step.
This would be especially true as you had listed the property for sale. In so doing it would be reasonable to assume you did your own own walk-through and should have recognized the problem and have repaired it.
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,
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