- past and future medical expenses
- past and future lost income
- bodily injury, pain and suffering, disability and physical impairment
- scarring and disfigurement
- mental anguish
- loss of capacity for the past or future enjoyment of life.
- property damage (e.g. broken glass, cell phone, watch, etc.)
Must Show That The Property Owner Carelessly Maintained the Stairs
If you slipped on stairs and were injured, you need to show that landowner was negligent in order to have a personal injury claim.
If you are an invitee on a premises in Florida, the landowner owes you duties. They are the duty to:
- Correct a dangerous condition which is either known to the owner or should be known to him by the use of reasonable care;
- Warn of a dangerous condition about which the property owner had or should have had knowledge greater than the invitee
If you overstepped while descending (walking down) stairs at a property, it may have been due to undersized tread.
If true, you can argue to the claims adjuster for the property owner that you twisted your feet to one side so that most of your foot was on the tread (area of the step that you walk on) or you twisted your feet outward.
In order to safely descend a stair, your ball of your foot must have enough support by the tread. You may overstep if there is enough slip resistance but your foot rotates until your leg can’t hold the weight that is placed on your front foot and you began to fall forward.
A heel scuff or overstep can happen because of an undersized tread and/or nonuniform tread depths.
If you scuffed your heel or overstepped due to an undersized tread or irregular tread depth, then the stair needs to be measured as soon as possible following the injury. This is because the landowner may fix the stair after your fall.
Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.
My client took some pictures of the stairs shortly after the incident.
Not too long after our client’s fall, we hired an engineer to inspect the stairs. Florida engineers usually require an initial non-refundable payment to inspect the stairs. The fee is normally $1,200 or so.
The engineer determined that the stairs had an undersized tread depth and irregular tread depth.
The landowner or property manager will likely have commercial general liability (“CGL”) insurance. The CGL insurer may hire its own expert (often an engineer) to inspect the stairs.
Their expert may say that the stairs have a regular (normal) size tread and a regular tread depth.
If the insurance company’s expert tells the insurer that the size of the tread is normal and the stair has regular tread depth, then the claims adjuster will reduce his full settlement value of the claim accordingly. He will do this because there is a chance that a jury may not feel that the property owner was negligent.
Keep in mind that even if you have an expert who says that the stair had a normal sized tread and regular tread depth, there is a chance that a jury may still not find the property owner negligent. This is because a jury is allowed to judge the credibility of all witnesses.
Court Lets Slip and Fall on Slippery Stairway Continue Towards Trial
In Denson v. SM-Planters Walk Apartments, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015, Bernadette filed a negligence lawsuit against Planters Walk Apartments and Insula Property Management, LLC. This is not my case.
She claimed that Planters is the owner and Insula is the property manager of the apartment complex whereupon she entered at their invitation on June 9, 2012.
She claimed that in the course of leaving the complex, she “stepped on a slick and glossy stair on the top of a stairway located upon the premises and slipped and fell down the stairway.
She claimed that the owner and property manager owed her a duty to warn of concealed perils upon the premises and a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and that they breached one or both of those duties.
She claimed that the owner and property manager’s negligence included their failure to “timely remove or remedy the slick and glossy surface on the stair that caused her to slip and fall.
The apartment complex owner and property manager argued that she could not prove they breached any duty they might have owed to her. They argued that her claim must fail because the stairs had not been freshly painted contrary to her opinion.
She Argued the Apartment Complex Owner Misused a Product on the Stairs
She argued that the apartment complex owner and property manager misused a product on the stairs given that the non-skid additive label states that one unit of additive is needed for one gallon of product.
She argued that the receipts show that ten gallons of product but only four units of additive were purchased, and the label states that the additive helps prevent slipping if added according to label directions.
The appeals court said that Mr. Gomez’s testimony, coupled with the Home Depot receipts and the Behr non-skid additive label, created a factual dispute as to whether the apartment complex owner and property manager maintained their premises in a reasonably safe condition.
Issue As to Whether Non-Skid Paint Was Used on the Stairs
The evidence raised a disputed issue of material fact about whether they used non-skid paint on the stairs or properly mixed the non-skid additive with the paint.
Mr. Gomez testified that he knows that anti-skid paint was used on the stairs because the paint said it was for concrete exteriors, Roy purchased the paint at Home Depot, and Home Depot must give the proper paint.
The Home Depot receipts, however, reflect that Roy purchased anti-skid additive in addition to paint and other products. Further, ten gallons of product but only four units of anti-skid additive were purchased, whereas the Behr label called for one unit of additive per gallon of product.
(Learn about slip and fall injury claims against Home Depot in Florida.)
The appeals court ruled that the property manager and apartment complex owner did not owe a duty to warn of a concealed danger. It did rule that it owed a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.
It let the case continue towards trial.
Don’t Need to Know Which Substance on the Stair Caused You to Slip
It is not necessary that you identify with any specificity the nature of the substance on the stairs that caused you to fall. Kinney v. R.H. Halt Assocs., Inc., 826 So.2d 328, 330 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002). This isn’t my case.
In Kinney, a man slipped and fell as he walked up the outdoor stairs in the back of his office building. He said that he slipped on a material.
He described the material like a powdery substance that he believed was “plaster board material.” He saw “little seed-like things” on the stairs.
He couldn’t say specifically which substance caused him you to slip. The court let the case continue towards trial.
Lady Falls While Descending Dangerous Stairs; Can’t Remember the Accident Happened; Courts Lets Case Continue
In Majeske v. Palm Beach Kennel Club, Fla. App. 1959, 117 So.2d 531, a lady fell while walking down stairs at a dog track. She said that she slipped and fell towards the bottom of the stairs.
She couldn’t remember how the accident happened. She hired an expert architect who said that the stairs had different riser heights which made the stairs dangerous.
The appeals court said that whether such negligence was the proximate cause of her injuries could be proven as conclusively by circumstantial evidence as by parol evidence.
If this wasn’t the rule, the survivors of one killed in an accident where there are no eye witnesses couldn’t get compensation.
Moreover, one rendered unconscious by an injury or having no knowledge of its cause or how it occurred would be placed in an impossible position in proving the case.
The court let the case continue towards trial because there was:
- Her injury was clearly shown
- A Prima Facie Showing of Negligence
Court Dismisses Slip and Fall on Steps at City Hall
This isn’t my case. In Bucholtz v. City of Jacksonville, 72 So.2d 52, 53 (Fla.1954), the case involved the liability of a municipality because of the condition of steps leading into the City Hall. Even though this case is old, it is still good law.
It was cited in Gordon v. Target Corp., 07-80412-CIV, 2008 WL 2557509 (S.D. Fla. June 23, 2008), which is a slip and fall case against Target.
In Bucholtz, both the plaintiff and defense used Jacksonville lawyers. The lawsuit claimed negligence because the City allowed treads of said steps to be worn slick and smooth.
A motion to dismiss the complaint was granted on the ground that the complaint was insufficient as a matter of law to impute negligence to the City. Final judgment was entered, and this appeal followed. This means that the trial court ruled for the City.
The Court took notice of the fact that the City Hall in the City of Jacksonville is an old building and that most of the citizens of Jacksonville having business with the municipality, transact such business at the City Hall.
Electric light bills, water bills and taxes are paid in the City Hall. The City Council chamber and the offices of the City Commission, Tax Assessor, Treasurer, Tax Collector, etc. are located in the City Hall. The main entrance to the building is by means of the steps, mentioned in the lawsuit, leading from the Forsythe Street entrance onto the ground floor of the City Hall.
The lawsuit did not contain a claim of any positive act on the part of the City. There is no allegation that the steps had recently been washed or polished and were slick and smooth by reason thereof.
No Claim That the Steps Were Improperly Constructed, Broken or Had a Defect
There is no allegation that the steps were improperly constructed or that the material used in the construction was not the proper kind of material, or that there was a hole in the steps, or that said steps were broken or had any hidden defect which caused the claimant to fall.
There is nothing more than the bare claim that the plaintiff, after having transacted her business, departed from the building by means of the steps and that the City had allowed and permitted the treads of said steps to be “worn slick and smooth” and that she did not know of the condition of the said steps; that by reason of the condition of said steps, she slipped and fell and, therefore, the City should pay.
The Florida Supreme Court rejected the claim of a woman who slipped and fell on steps where it was alleged the treads of the steps were permitted to be “worn slick and smooth”.
The court noted that the owner of property which contains areas that become smooth are not obligated to “destroy the smoothness” of such areas.
It’s Common Knowledge Steps Become Slick and Smooth Over Time
The Florida Supreme Court said that it is a matter of common knowledge that constant use of steps, although properly constructed of proper material, will cause such steps to become slick and smooth. The steps leading into the Supreme Court Building and most of the floors in such building are slick and smooth.
The same can be said with reference to multiplied thousands of public buildings throughout the State of Florida. The hardwood floors or marble floors in countless homes, hotels and other buildings throughout Florida are smooth and slick.
It might be possible for public authorities, owners of buildings and homes to cause such steps and floors not to be slick and smooth by the application of tar or other material, or the sprinkling of sand or gravel thereon, or permitting sufficient dirt to accumulate to destroy the smoothness, but no such obligation or liability is placed upon those having charge of such building.
This case is a good illustration of the thought that every time someone is injured, someone else should pay for the injury.
Before there can be a recovery for an injury of this kind, the allegations must show some negligence on the part of the City. In this case the lawsuit falls far short of any allegations imputing negligence to the defendant.
Thoughts: I think today’s Florida Supreme Court would have not dismissed the case if the injured person hired an expert who said that the steps were unreasonably slippery.
Does a landowner or property manager usually admit liability if you slip and fall on their stairs?
If you sue the landowner or property owner after you slipped and fell on their stairs, they usually deny liability. However, most cases slip and fall cases settle during litigation.
Did someone’s carelessness cause you to slip or trip and fall and suffer an injury in Florida, or on a cruise or boat? Were you injured in another type of accident?
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