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Are Some Slip and Fall Accidents Due To Negligence?

Michael P. Quinn, Jr.

Sometimes, people slip and fall. Young and old, men and women; everyone falls. Most of the time, it’s nobody’s fault. Even more of the time, no one gets hurt.

Sometimes, however, someone slips and falls and is seriously injured because of another’s carelessness or laziness. Unfortunately, in our society today, the careless typically will not accept responsibility when they cause someone else to get hurt. Even if someone breaks a hip or an arm, or worse, suffers a head injury, the careless will not make good on their mistakes. Often times instead of admitting they made a mistake, the careless will blame the injured person for “not watching” where they walk, as if people should expect a walkway in a public place to be dangerous. Or, even worse, the careless will admit their mistake but their insurance company will refuse to make good, arguing that injured person is a faker or complainer. Thus, the injured person is left with the option that they never thought they’d have to take – hiring an attorney.

Rhode Island, like every state in this country, has what is called premises liability law, which places a duty on property owners to maintain their property in a safe condition for anyone who is reasonably expected to be there. If there is an unsafe condition on the premises and the owner knew or reasonably should have known about it, but didn’t correct it or warn about it – they can be found legally liable in a courtroom. Here are some examples:

Well after the end of a snow storm that left a foot of snow on the ground, a pharmacy’s employees shovel the snow away from the front door, but fail to shovel the twelve inches of snow from the sidewalks that its customers need to walk on to get to the front door. The employees decide that customers can just avoid the sidewalks by walking in the parking lot to get to the front door. A mother, with two children, avoids the sidewalk because of the snow and attempts to walk through a maze of ice patches in the parking lot. She loses her footing and slips and falls, shattering her ankle.

A car dealership is putting in a new main entrance and has to divert its customers to a side door to get into the showroom. A mulched path leads to the side door, which is next to the service garage. For years, a blue metal barrel with used motor oil has sat outside the service garage. Over time, the metal bottom was visibly rotted and tiny amounts of oil leaked out, saturating the mulch and dirt pathway. As customers continued to walk through the side door, they had to walk through the mulched area where the oil leaked. As they did, they tracked oil onto the entryway rug. After a few days, the rug had enough oil on it that the soles of customers’ shoes would track oil into the showroom. At the end of the fourth day of renovations, a retiree looking for a new pickup truck stepped inside the side door, slipped and fell, and fractured his hip.

The attorneys of Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, P.C. in Rhode Island, have, unfortunately, seen too many acts of carelessness and negligence: stair handrails hanging on by the thread of a screw; rotted wooden stairs; missing gutter drains leading to sidewalk ice sheets. When the property owner fails to act reasonably to keep the property safe for all, he should accept responsibility. If not, the law will make him — and our attorneys are here to help you.