Visitor Question

Fall in dark staircase due to negligence of landlord not maintaining the premises…

Submitted By: Kate (California, CA)

I was visiting my boyfriend’s apartment last night when I fell down a flight of stairs. The stairwell was pitch black and the reason for my fall was my inability to see neither the landing (upon which I was hoping to step before I fell), nor the handrail. The stairwell is part of the common area of the apartments and is not within my boyfriend’s apartment/care.

I did not find it necessary to go to the emergency room but I had a doctor (my father) come by to inspect my injuries. I have severely bruised my tailbone (severely limiting my movement as of right now) and have bruised my back significantly, and may have fractured or chipped off part of a vertebra.

I am generally bruised all over and in a great deal of pain when I walk, stand, sit or lie down in any way other than on my stomach. According to the doctor, I will need some serious chiropractic work, and one can only hope I haven’t fractured my vertebrae or tailbone – I’m going in on Tuesday for x-rays.

To be perfectly honest, part of my problem here is that my boyfriend asked the landlord at least twice to fix/replace the light, but to no avail. It’s been dark most of the times I’ve gone to visit him (when it’s dark outside). I have previously twisted my ankle on the stairs, but decided to let it go.

Now, however, I’m going to be sore for months and will have to pay for (albeit somewhat minor) medical expenses. This is complicated by my job which requires a full range of motion and quick responses. (I currently can’t bend down effectively, nor can I stand or sit or do anything for extended periods–I assume though, that the swelling and bruising will go down within the next few weeks.)

This has never happened to me before, so I’m not sure what the best course of action is, but if possible, I’d like the landlord to pay for my medical expenses – whatever they end up being. And of course I’d like him to fix the darn light! I have yet to contact him.

Perhaps another thing to mention is that the landlord is, according to my boyfriend, kind of a deadbeat – he rarely fixes things and takes ages to get back about maintenance issues.

I’m in California, by the way. Thank you for any advice!

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Kate,

An injury to the coccyx bone is painful and can take months to heal. It would certainly be helpful if your boyfriend had documented his contact with the landlord. It would also be helpful if the documentation was in letter form and your boyfriend kept copies. If the notice was not in letter form, but was documented another way, such as notations of the date and time called, that would suffice.

Not documenting his communications with the landlord will not relieve the landlord of liability. The landlord still has a legal duty to keep the premises safe and hazard free for tenants and their guests.

Without notice of the lighting problem the landlord will maintain he acted reasonably in his management (and possible ownership) of the property and will claim he can not be held liable every time a bulb breaks.

He will maintain that light bulbs do not have an exact burn out date and the only way he would know for sure when a bulb burns out is to send someone by the property each day to see how the bulbs are doing.

Putting that aside for the moment, the most probable outcome would be in your favor. The landlord should be liable not only for your injuries, but for the additional Pain and Suffering you endured.

Sending a certified letter to the landlord explaining the details of your injuries is the first place to start. In the letter you should remind him of the repeated notices he received from your boyfriend. Finally you should enclose copies of your medical and out-of-pocket expenses. The following letter example should be helpful…


Dear Mr./Ms._________

On Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 while a guest at your property at________________and while descending the closest accessible stairwell I fell and was seriously injured. My injuries could have been avoided if there had been adequate lighting in and around the stairwell. It is my understanding you had been repeatedly warned of the danger posed by the absence of lighting in and around the same stairwell.

As a direct result of your negligence I incurred medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and continue to endure Pain and Suffering. As a further result of your negligence I have been unable to properly perform the duties of my job.

I will continue to require therapy, including, but no limited to, chiropractic care, additional x-rays, and related out-of-pocket expenses.

To fairly compensate me for actual damages, out-of-pocket expenses and future pain and suffering I hereby demand payment in the amount of Five Thousand ($5,000.00) Dollars.

If you choose not to fairly compensate me for the above, I will consider filing suit against you.

If you have any questions or if any of the above is not clear please contact me at ___________.

Yours truly,




Learn more here: Apartment Complex Injury Claims

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We wish you the best with your claim,


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