The following are guidelines that will help you determine who is responsible in a typical slip, trip or fall case on property belonging to someone else. Thousands of people are injured each year in slip and fall cases. Sometimes the owners of a property are responsible and other times they are not.
Remember it is a normal part of living for things to fall on or drip onto a floor and that someone who owns or occupies a property cannot always be responsible for accidents. Further, the property owner is not responsible where someone slips or trips on something that an ordinary person would expect to find there and would ordinarily see and/or avoid. We all have an obligation to watch where we were walking. In determining whether a property owner should have known of a defective condition when in fact they did not have actual knowledge of the condition you would have to look at the following factors:

  • How long has the dangerous area been there? Was it there long enough that the owner should have known about it?
  • Does the property owner have a regular procedure for examining, cleaning or repairing the premises? If so, what proof does the owner have of this regular maintenance? If you tripped over an object that was on the floor for a good reason, does there still exist a good reason to have the property on the floor or is there another place that the particular object could have been placed that would have been more safe without any greater inconvenience or expense to the property owner?
  • Could a simple barrier have been created or a warning have been given to prevent people from slipping or tripping?
  • Did the lighting in the particular area contribute to the accident?
  • Defenses to your negligence action can destroy your cause of action. If a defendant in a slip and fall case or a products liability case or a landlord/tenant negligence case can prove that the plaintiff was in way contributory negligent or assumed the risk then that is an absolute defense to any claim that may be made. Maryland is a contributory negligence state, which means that in order for a plaintiff to prevail in a personal injury claim the plaintiff must be 100 percent in the right and must not contribute in any way to the accident. If the plaintiff contributes even 1 percent to an accident, the plaintiff loses and cannot recover anything. While this may seem very harsh, many defendants use this legal theory to disavow liability.For instance, in a typical slip and fall on ice in front of a business, the landlord will prevail if he can show that the tenant saw the ice prior to walking on it but made a conscious decision to walk on the ice anyway. The landlord can then assert the defense of contributory negligence and/or assumption of risk and can successfully dodge liability even though he may have been negligent in not cleaning up the ice in the first place.
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