Stepped on tree root and broke my foot...

by Connie
(Fort Worth, TX)

In Texas on May 3, 2013 I broke my right foot (the 5th metatarsal) completely in half by stepping on exposed tree roots. In front of each apartment there is a small grassy area were kids play or tenants will sit. It is like a small yard with a tree about every other apartment.

Many of the areas that have a tree you will find that many roots around the tree are not under the ground and instead are exposed. Some roots are exposed a little, some a lot, and some not at all due to not inadequate soil level. I was visiting a tenant and as I headed to the front door were she was standing, I stepped off the main sidewalk/concrete and continued to the door thru grass area.

Halfway to door as I stepped down I feel to my knees. The outside of my right foot as it went to step came down on part of the tree roots. It felt like I bruised it, not like a twist. I left shortly after heading home approximately 15 minutes away. I drove almost halfway home when the pain hit and I couldn't apply any weight or pressure to it. I figured it was a bad sprain went to bed and suffered.

At day break I went to a Doctor who said it was broke. I couldn't use the foot and needed to see specialist. I notified the apartment management and requested their insurance info. They will not give it to me, my spouse, or the tenant. I was in a cast and crutches for 4 months and was unable to drive for 3 months. I even went there to confront them but got nothing. Even now they still will not tell me anything or return calls.

Are they not responsible for failure to maintain the grounds. What can I do to force them to give me their insurance info? Do I have to file a lawsuit against them to get their information? What are my options? Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Stepped on tree root and broke my foot...":

Connie (Fort Worth, TX):

The apartment complex owners and management have a legal duty of care to do everything reasonably possible to protect tenants and visitors from undue harm and injury. This is commonly referred to as "premises liability."

The question in your case is whether or not covering tree roots falls under the legal duty of care. You are in a murky area of the law. Tree roots in and of themselves normally don't pose an inherent danger. Moreover, the courts would likely find it "unreasonable" for the owners or management to have removed the tree roots. Doing so would be inordinately expensive and might result in the death of the tree.

In your case the courts will have to decide if not covering the roots with top soil constitutes negligence, which would be a breach of the apartment owner's or management's legal duty of care.

The apartment owners and management do not have a legal duty to give you their insurance information or answer your telephone calls. They are well within their legal rights to ignore you.

If your injuries were minor, you might have success in small claims court. In your case, your injuries appear quite serious. As a result, your claim will have to be pursued in either the Tarrant County Courts, or in one of the Tarrant County District Courts. To pursue a case in these courts will require an attorney. Most personal injury attorneys will not charge for an initial office consultation.

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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