Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

Slip and fall accidents can lead to devastating and painful injuries for the victim, and they can happen virtually anywhere, even near or at your own residence. In many instances, slip and fall accidents happen because of a property owner’s failure to maintain the premises in a safe and reasonable condition. If you were hurt on a piece of property that someone else owns, controls, or manages, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages. At Maurer Law, our Charlotte premises liability lawyers are prepared to help you determine whether you have a right to compensation and the best way to go about pursuing your claim.

In a recent case, the North Carolina Court of Appeal issued an opinion in a case involving a slip and fall accident. The plaintiff in the case slipped and fell on a molded walkway in her condo complex, and she filed a claim for compensation. The plaintiff alleged that she always used a stairway on the side of the building to access her condo. During August 2012, however, the plaintiff was recovering from rotator cuff surgery. The building featured two wooden walkways on either side of the building to get to the parking lot. Each walkway featured a 90-degree turn around a white column.

The building owner contracted with a company to maintain the common areas, including the walkways. In November 2012, one of its employees notified the defendant that one of the walkways was suffering from dangerous mold growth that made the surface slick when wet. She suggested that the defendant power wash the walkways but never received a response. Shortly afterward, the plaintiff used the elevator to go to the ground floor to get her suitcase. She was unaware that it had rained overnight. After turning on the 90-degree angle of the walkway, the plaintiff slipped on the slimy mold and fell, causing her to break her femur.

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Store owners have a duty to keep their land in a reasonably safe condition for visitors and guests, but there are still countless incidences of shoppers becoming injured due to North Carolina slip and fall accidents. In some instances, the injuries that the victim suffers can be devastating and even life-altering.  At Maurer Law, we proudly assist North Carolina residents with holding negligent storeowners responsible for failing to keep their premises safe.

Obtaining any evidence possible to show that the defendant’s conduct caused your injuries is a critical step to securing the compensation that you deserve. A North Carolina Court of Appeal recently heard a case in which the plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell on an oily substance in the defendant’s store in the Wake Forest neighborhood. She was shopping with a friend who caught her as she fell. The store manager had her fill out a customer statement in which she wrote that there was a greasy substance with food particles on the floor. She also reported that her right hip and ankle were painful. The manager informed the plaintiff that the incident was on camera, but there was no surveillance of the accident. The woman did not seek medical attention.

After a jury trial, the jury concluded that the defendant’s conduct was not the cause of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial and the plaintiff appealed, challenging a number of items including the jury instructions that the court provided to the jury and the denial of her motion for a new trial.

One of the most serious dangers that you can face is a dangerous property that is not maintained in a safe condition. As seasoned North Carolina slip and fall attorneys, we have seen firsthand how disruptive an accident can be for the victim and his or her loved ones. If you were injured on another person’s property, we can help.

In a recent North Carolina appellate opinion, the plaintiff had parked her car in a handicap parking space at a mall in Henderson County. When the plaintiff exited her vehicle, she tripped and fell on a portion of pavement that was uneven. In her complaint, she alleged that she sustained severe and painful injuries as a result of the fall. The incident was reported to the property manager, who prepared a report regarding the incident. The facility had a policy that any occurrences on the property would be reported.

After the lawsuit commenced, the plaintiff served interrogatories on the defendants and asked for copies of any and all incident reports that were prepared regarding the trip and fall. The defendants refused to provide the report, stating that it was protected under the rule that protects information prepared in anticipation of litigation. This is similar to the attorney-client privilege rule, which protects information shared between a client and attorney for the purpose of obtaining legal advice.

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In a recent North Carolina appellate case, the plaintiff appealed after summary judgment was granted for the defendant, the City of Gastonia. The city owned a commercial building within a downtown revitalization district. The building wasn’t used to house a municipal or government office or department.

Starting in 2013, the city leased the building to an art guild, which wasn’t affiliated with the city or the county. The city leased the building in order to fill a vacancy and remove blight from the vacant downtown buildings. The purpose of the lease wasn’t profit, and the city kept its responsibility to inspect the building and maintain its exterior.

The art guild was limited to using the location as an art gallery, studio, and gift shop under the lease terms. The art guild had to provide compensation in the form of 90% of all of the rent money it got from subtenants, 30% of the gross sales receipts received for art sold in that location, and 15% of its gross sales receipts, and the subtenants had to provide at least 15 hours of volunteer time at the gallery as well as performing other tasks.

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In Williams v. Advance Auto Parts, the North Carolina plaintiff appealed two orders that granted summary judgment to the defendants in a trip and fall case. He argued that the court should have allowed him to amend his complaint to name the correct defendant.

The case arose in 2012 when the plaintiff tripped and fell inside an auto parts store. He submitted his claim for injuries to the third-party administrator that administered the liability policy for the store. In a letter, the third-party administrator named its insured as the auto parts store and denied that the insured was negligent.

The plaintiff sued the defendant in October 2015, naming it incorrectly. In December, the plaintiff filed a notice to amend the complaint, providing a second name for the owner of the store. Civil summons were directed to both of the possible names.

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In Livingston Gause v. New Hanover, a North Carolina appellate court considered whether a patient’s fall during an X-ray brought his injury claim under medical malpractice laws. The case arose when a daughter drove her mom to the ER because she had chest pains related to a fall. The mother was 73 and had a history of falls.

At the ER, a nurse evaluated the mother’s complaint and determined which priority she should be. She asked for an x-ray chest PA or AP. The PA chest x-ray required a patient to stand, while the AP could be taken with the patient lying down or sitting or standing. However, the PA provided more information about the patient, permitting a more accurate diagnosis.

After several minutes, the mother was taken to a restricted area within the ER and evaluated by a different nurse. The x-ray technician met the mother and her daughter in the hall and took her in a wheelchair to radiology. The daughter stayed in the hall. The tech explained what was going to happen to the mother, asking her if she could stand, and the mother answered that she thought she could stand. The mother then stood up without help. However, the tech spoke to a doctor later in the day and told the doctor that she stood the patient up.

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In Utley v. Smith, a North Carolina appellate court considered a trip and fall case. The case arose in 2012 when the plaintiff was shopping for plants in the defendant’s store. He asked a clerk where he could find particular plants and was told he could find them outside. On his way toward the plants, he tripped over a stack of tomato crates and hurt his shoulder and hip.

He sued the defendant in 2014, claiming negligence and loss of consortium. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted. The plaintiff appealed. He argued that there was a genuine factual issue about whether the condition that caused him to trip and fall was open and obvious. He argued that the tomato crates were not open and obvious, and the defendant was negligent.

The appellate court disagreed. It explained that a trip and fall plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant failed to use proper care in performing a legal duty owed to the plaintiff and that this breach of duty was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. In North Carolina, property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to all lawful visitors. Business owners are expected to keep the parts of the property that they reasonably expect will be used by customers in a reasonably safe condition during business hours. They are supposed to provide warnings of hidden dangers or unsafe conditions that can’t be seen through a customer’s reasonable observation. However, an owner need not warn customers of obvious dangers of which customers have equal or better knowledge.

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In North Carolina, property owners must use reasonable care to make their property safe for lawful visitors. Whether a property owner’s actions to make the property safe are reasonable are judged against the actions of reasonably prudent people under the circumstances.

There’s no duty to safeguard a lawful visitor from dangers that are either known to him or so obvious and apparent the owner can reasonably expect a visitor to discover them. Property owners are not expected to ensure their visitors’ safety, however. If you suffer a slip and fall, it is important to photograph the area and figure out which dangerous condition caused your fall, as illustrated by the following case.

In Skipper v. Wayne Oil Company, a North Carolina plaintiff appealed after the court granted summary judgment in a slip and fall case. The plaintiff was a foreman from Tennessee who installed cell phone towers and was building one in North Carolina. When he left his hotel on the morning of the accident, he crossed the parking lot of the defendant’s gas station. The parking lot didn’t look slippery, so he went into the convenience store and bought various items. As he left and returned the way he came, he slipped and rolled his ankle. He fell. The pain worsened as he walked back to the hotel.

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Slip and falls are common in retail stores, but these cases can be hard to prove in North Carolina and elsewhere. Among other things, an injured plaintiff needs to establish that the property owner breached its duty to keep the store free from hazards and that either the hazard was created by the store, the store had actual notice of the hazard, or the store had constructive notice of the hazard.

Usually, constructive notice is established by showing a substance was on the floor of the store for long enough that in the course of exercising reasonable care, the storeowner should have discovered it.

In some cases, surveillance footage can be used to establish the amount of time a substance was on the floor or how the substance came to be on the floor. Sometimes surveillance can be powerful evidence to convince a jury of constructive notice. However, as part of its business practices, the court may erase and reuse old surveillance footage. Therefore, it is critical to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a slip and fall so that evidence can be preserved. It can also be helpful to take pictures that can be used as evidence of the dangerous condition.

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There’s nothing worse than breaking your dominant hand in a slip, trip, and fall accident.

Although it is a property owner’s responsibility to keep her premises safe, any “slip, trip, and fall” accident victim will tell you that this does not always happen. (For simplicity, we’ll refer to “slip, trip and fall accidents” as a catch-all for any accident in which you bust your tail on someone else’s property).

It is important that every individual looks out for herself and does what she can to prevent an accident from happening in the first place. No one wants to end up in the hospital with broken bones, internal bleeding, or head trauma.

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