North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Application of Governmental Immunity Doctrine in Slip and Fall Case

Slip and fall accidents can happen virtually anywhere in North Carolina. If you are injured due to someone else’s failure to maintain his or her property in good working condition, then you can bring a premises liability claim against the owner to recover compensation for your injuries. When the owner of the premises is the government, however, special rules and considerations apply. The doctrine of governmental immunity states that municipalities cannot be deemed negligent in some situations for personal injuries. Our diligent team of North Carolina slip and fall lawyers is standing by and ready to help you ensure that you proceed with your claim in the correct manner.

A North Carolina appellate court recently considered a claim asking whether a city was immune from tort liability for the plaintiff’s slip and fall injury based on the doctrine of governmental immunity. The defendant leased the premises to various groups and the lease stated that the defendant was responsible for maintaining the exterior of the building and that it had the right to inspect the premises at any time.

The plaintiff in the matter was one of the tenants of the building. She was leaving through a rear exit carrying a large stack of items when she lost her balance and fell down the steps on a section of the steps that she alleged had eroded. She suffered a broken hip and other injuries. She filed a personal injury claim against the defendant alleging that it was negligent in its maintenance of the stairs and that it waived the doctrine of governmental immunity because it purchased liability insurance. She also alleged that the government was engaged in a proprietary function, which deprived the defendant of governmental immunity.

The defendant moved for summary judgment, stating that the governmental immunity protections applied and that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The lower court granted the motion for summary judgment finding that the insurance policy contained a specific non-waiver clause that allowed its governmental immunity protection to remain intact. It also indicated that there was no clear evidence suggesting that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.

The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the defendant was engaged in a proprietary function because it owned and maintained the building and leased it to an art guild as part of its attempt to revitalize a downtown area. The parties appealed again, and the North Carolina Supreme Court determined that governmental immunity did apply. It relied on evidence showing that the urban redevelopment project was undertaken to improve health, safety, and welfare, which are all government functions. It also noted that the defendant was not looking to make a profit and that leasing it to an art guild was a valid revitalization endeavor.

If you were hurt on public property or privately owned premises, it is important that you explore your legal right to compensation through North Carolina premises liability law as soon as possible. At Maurer Law, we will investigate every aspect of your claim and ensure that you seek the full amount of compensation that you are owed. We provide a free consultation to discuss your situation so call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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