The following slip and fall personal injury case demonstrates some important legal issues involved in premises liability claims. We’ll review the accident, liability, injuries, negotiations, and the final case resolution.
Jack and Mary were in grocery store doing their regular shopping. There had been a terrible rain storm earlier that day and the ground outside of the store was wet and pooled in some areas.
Upon entering the store and cruising down aisle three, they could not see that water was dripping from the ceiling from an apparent hole in the roof. This water was allowed to pool and collect with no signage or cones to ward off potential shoppers.
As they approached, Mary took a step and immediately slipped. She attempted to hold onto the basket to no avail as she landed on her tail bone twisting her body to the right. In excruciating pain, she could not move.
Jack ran to the nearest employee and relayed what happened at which time they took an incident report. In the report, there was a blank area that read: “was there any signage or warnings” and without their knowing, the employee simply wrote “yes.”
However just as Mary was going to sign the statement, she noticed this and asked the employee to please cross off and initial that, in fact, there were no signs.
In this slip and fall personal injury case, the owner of the store was liable for the injury to Mary. Property owners are responsible to make periodic inspections of their property and to warn of any known dangers and hazards. Had the store owner done so (or instructed his employees to do so), he would have know about the hole in the roof and the leaking water.
One argument against this theory is that, in a rain storm, water can pool so quickly that there is no time to inspect. However this was not a successful argument because evidence was submitted that in the 5 rain storms prior, the store owner knew about the leaky roof (because it always leaked), but would not shell out the money to repair it.
Mary suffered a broken tail bone and a sprained ankle from her fall. She also missed 4 weeks of work where she was employed as secretary making $500 per week and was required to wear an expensive brace ($550.00) which was covered by her insurance. She went to 4 months of physical therapy totaling $8,000. Her total damages were $10,550.
The insurance for the store denied Mary’s slip and fall personal injury claim at first stating that she fell due to her own clumsiness and that the claim form initially said there were warnings. They argued that Mary crossed out this statement, not the employee.
Mary immediately hired an attorney who wasted no time and filed a lawsuit. This enabled him to commence discovery where he deposed (or questioned) the employee about:
1. Whether he had crossed off the statement; and
2. Whether the store owner previously knew of the leaky roof.
The attorney was able to establish these factors in his client’s favor. Subsequently, the attorney re-submitted a demand letter with his supporting documentation for $45,000.
The insurance company countered with $18,000 arguing that her treatment was excessive and that Mary was a woman with a large build which contributed to her injury.
The insurance company ultimately settled for $30,000 on the eve of trial because the attorney remained confident in his case.
- Slip and fall personal injury cases can be hard to win. Many attorneys will not take them due to the difficulty in proving them and the amount of money involved.
- When an attorney (or party) wants to start discovery right away in a difficult case, he/she will file the law suit which then gives them the right to ask questions and conduct depositions.
- Incident reports are very important because they are completed at a time when the information is fresh in your mind. But read them carefully to ensure that the employee or supervisor completing the form is accurate.
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