This week’s question comes from Kimmie L: “Wet weather recently has led to the steps and stairs at my apartment entrance to be slippery. I fell and ended up at the emergency room. Is my landlord responsible?”
Hi Kimmie, I hope you are healing quickly. Injuries and hospital trips are often traumatic events. Unfortunately, you are not the only one dealing with those issues, and you ask a very important question.
The Bay Area has been blessed with some much needed rain; however, with the rain, there comes potential slipping hazards from the accumulation of water on improperly constructed or maintained surfaces. Some property owners, including apartment owners, do not take the sometimes costly, but necessary, steps to maintain the property safely, and allow rain water to accumulate on stairs and entrance ways. When a property becomes unsafe because of the poor design, construction, or maintenance and an injury occurs, it is referred to as a Premises Liability or Slip and Fall accident case.
To answer your question, a property owner can be held responsible for premises liability cases if the following conditions are met:
1) The responsible party must have owned, occupied, and/or controlled the property upon which the injured person was harmed by.
When a landlord that owns an apartment building where a person falls, this element is likely met.
2) The Owner was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property.
This is a complicated element that would require analysis of whether the condition was known, should have been known, how long it was apparent, and how costly it would be to fix it.
3) The Owner’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm.
Accidents are often the result of multiple causes, and sometimes people aren’t as vigilant as they could be in keeping an eye on their footing, or wearing appropriate footwear; and sometimes there are also other unrelated factors at play. This element anticipates this fact and does not require that the landlord’s negligence be the only cause, but only that it be a “substantial factor” in causing the accident.
Importantly, landowners must use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace or give adequate warning of anything that could be reasonably expected to harm others. They can even be held negligent if they fail to use reasonable care to discover unsafe conditions on the property and to repair, replace or give adequate warnings of anything that could reasonably be expected to harm others.
When it comes to slippery surfaces from rain, the potential dangers can take many forms such as: clogged gutters or drains that send water onto walkways rather than the intended drainpipe, unmaintained wooden porches where moss has been allowed to grow and cause a slipping hazard, or iced walkways because sprinklers were left on in freezing temperatures. The potential for slipping hazards in wet and cold weather is great, and requires vigilance.
If a tenant recognizes a danger, it is best to notify the landowner, so that the danger can be repaired without anyone being harmed. If the landlord is made aware, and refuses to fix the condition which later causes injury, there will be little doubt that the property owner “knew of the condition.”
Ultimately, we should all take steps to make sure our residences are safe. Landlords have specific duties to do so. If they fail to undertake those duties and someone is injured as a result, they may be held liable for those injuries.
Contact A Slip And Fall/Premises Liability Attorney At The Dolan Law Firm Today
If you have been injured in a serious slip and fall accident, contact our attorneys today by completing our contact form or call us toll free at 1-888-452-4752 for skilled and experienced legal counsel. We will review your case for free, promptly and with no obligation on your part.
We serve clients across the San Francisco Bay Area and California from our offices in San Francisco and Oakland. Our work is no recovery, no free or also referred to as contingency-based. That means we collect no fee unless we obtain money for your damages and injuries.