SLIP AND FALL LAWYER WINS CASE, EVEN THOUGH PREMISES COMPLIED WITH THE TOWN’S CONSTRUCTION CODE.
A slip and fall lawyer recently won an appeal for his client. The slip and fall lawyer argued that the owner of the premises was responsible for his client’s fall.
The facts in the case were basically agreed upon. The owner rented his vacation home in Long Beach, New Jersey to the victim and his wife. They were vacationing with a group of family and friends. Recent renovations to the home included a third-floor space accessible by an eight-step interior staircase.
Facing the window at the top of the stairs, to the left, was an open kitchen. To the right a living room. The steps ended in a forty-five inch “landing,” just below the window. The landing had a single step, about eight inches high, leading up to the rest of the third floor. The architectural plans for the construction were approved by the Township. They complied with all applicable building codes.
One day, the victim was talking to his friend. The friend was standing on the other side of the counter in the kitchen. The victim was walking along the kitchen counter holding a loaf of bread.
The victim missed the step down. He fell onto the landing. Then he toppled down the stairs, suffering injuries.
The slip and fall lawyer hired an engineer. The engineer stated that the design of the landing at the top of the stairs was a hazard. The reason it was a hazard was because it was located along an open kitchen counter. The risk could have been lessened by the installation of handrails. There should also have been a warning sign.
The owner’s attorney argued that his client was not responsible. He had complied with all the applicable building codes. The trial judge agreed and dismissed the lawsuit.
The slip and fall lawyer appealed. The appeals court found in favor of the victim. It accepted the argument of the slip and fall lawyer. It is true that failing to comply with a building code may make an owner responsible to someone injured on his premises. But, just because the owner complied with the code, does not immunize him from all responsibility. Where there is an obvious danger, just complying with the code is not enough. You have to fix the danger.
A jury will make the final decision as to whether the owner is responsible.
You can see the appeals court decision here.
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