Visitor Question

My mom died falling down stairs in a rented home with no handrail…

Submitted By: Kevin (Ferndale, Washington)

My mom fell down some stairs in my brother’s rented house and hit her head and died. She was holding my niece (who didn’t have a scratch on her). She hit her head so hard she cracked the tile. She stopped breathing and was resuscitated, but went to the hospital and had stopped breathing. We pulled life support within 2 hours. She was brain dead. I’m so devastated…just lost.

There were no handrails in the house. The house looks fairly new. There were two flights of stairs. Can we sue the landlord for negligence for not having handrails?

We are just grieving the loss of mom. This happened 3.5 weeks ago and we have massive bills. We live in Canada, just at the border, but she died a mile south of the border in the USA at my brother’s home (who married an American).

My mother had health insurance, but we are upset and wondering if we have a case. I don’t know American law and we just realized this after the funeral. Do we have a case? What can we do? What are our options? Thank you for any direction you can give.

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 Kevin,

Every structure is unique. Without knowing the type of home and it’s location we can’t point you to a specific regulation regarding handrails in homes. However, you can contact the Humboldt County California Building Code Department and ask about the code regulation for the home in which your mother was fatally injured.

Humboldt County Building Code website

While you can do your own research, because of the seriousness of the matter you should seek the advice and counsel of several personal injury attorneys in the United States. You specifically want to consult with attorneys with substantial experience in Wrongful Death cases.

The landlord had a legal duty to make the home safe for the tenants. This includes being in full compliance with building codes. Failure to do everything within reason to make the property safe can result in liability if, as a result of the landlord’s failure, a tenant or visitor is injured.

Most personal injury attorneys in the United States do not charge legal fees for initial office consultations. Bring along the medical records, including verification of the emergency room treatment and ambulance transportation. Additionally, most injury attorneys do not charge any legal fees until, and unless they are successful in settling a case or winning it in trial

After visiting with several attorneys you will have a better idea of the viability of your wrongful death claim and the likelihood of success.

Learn more here: Wrongful Death Lawsuits

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

Best of luck,


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