North Carolina Court of Appeal Discusses Governmental Immunity in Trip and Fall Injury Case

Most people know that suffering a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property may entitle you to compensation from the owner for your injuries and damages. When the owner of the property is a government entity, however, there are many additional rules that apply to how you must go about asserting your claim. The compassionate and responsive Charlotte premises liability lawyers at Maurer Law are available to assist you with investigating your claim and ensuring that you protect your rights.

In a recent case, the North Carolina Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether a lower court properly granted summary judgment in favor of a city in a slip and fall accident. The accident took place at a building that the city had purchased from the county in an attempt to revitalize its downtown area. It leased the property to nonprofit art groups. The lease stated that the defendant was responsible for maintaining the exterior of the building and had the right to inspect it from time to time.

The plaintiff was one of the subtenants leasing the building at the time the accident occurred. She was carrying a large stack of pictures through a rear exit of the building when she lost her balance on a set of stairs and fell. Evidence in the record suggested that the concrete material that comprised the steps had eroded. She suffered a broken hip and other injuries as a result of the fall. The plaintiff filed a claim against the city as the owner of the building.

The defendant eventually filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that it was entitled to governmental immunity and that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The lower court granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that the city had leased the building to the art guild as part of a governmental function to revitalize the area and to prevent deterioration of a historical structure. Although now moot, the trial court also denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on contributory negligence.

The plaintiff appealed and the reviewing court analyzed the lower court’s ruling. The appellate court examined many factors in the record to determine whether the city was performing a government function that is entitled to immunity from personal injury lawsuits. It concluded that because the city was not seeking to make a profit and that the project was being used for a valid urban redevelopment project, it was a protected government function. It was careful to note, however, that not every such endeavor would automatically be entitled to governmental immunity and that a court should analyze each situation on its face. Because the lower court did not analyze whether the city waived its right to governmental immunity by purchasing liability insurance, it remanded the case for additional proceedings.

If you or someone you love was injured in a premises liability accident, the seasoned attorneys at Maurer Law are prepared to assist you with examining your claim. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and the best way to go about protecting your rights. Call us today at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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