On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP on Wednesday, February 20, 2019.

As a landlord, you are rightfully concerned about any accidents or injuries that may occur on your property. Slips and falls in particular can be common, especially in slick, snowy or icy weather conditions. Staying on top of regular maintenance, cleanup, shoveling, salting and snow blowing is key when you own or manage a property. After all, you are generally liable for slips and falls that result in injury if they happen due to your negligence.

Not all slip and fall cases automatically mean the landlord is to blame. If you are a landlord and have faced a similar situation, there are ways you can defend yourself against these types of accidents.

As is the case with nearly all personal injury cases, negligence must be proven in order for the claim to be successful. Quite simply, if there is no negligence, there is no liability. In order for a tenant or guest to win a slip and fall case, they must prove that you, the property owner, was negligent in some way. Just because they slipped and fell on your property doesn’t automatically mean you were negligent.

You must have had to have caused, or failed to prevent, a slippery condition that led to the fall. Going even further than that, even if the premises may have presented an unsafe condition, this also doesn’t automatically equal negligence. The victim must how that you as the landlord had knowledge about the unsafe conditions beforehand but failed to act. 

For this reason, slip and fall liability cases are difficult to prove.

Knowing Your Rights

So, can you as the landlord be sued if someone gets hurt while on your property? The short answer is yes but the outcome will depend on many factors, such as whether the person can find a lawyer willing to take on their case, the specifics of the fall, and whether negligence was present.
If you are approached about being sued or are threatened with a lawsuit, your best bet is to call a lawyer for a free consultation. However, if you have homeowners insurance and a person was hurt on your property, call your insurance company and report it right away. Part of your homeowner’s insurance may include a stipulation that your insurance company will hire an attorney to represent you in in the event you are sued.
Retaining the services of a lawyer is key, as one small detail in a case like this can spell the difference between winning and losing.

The victim will have to prove many things, such as:

  • What caused the fall
  • What caused the fall was unreasonably dangerous
  • What caused the fall was created by the property owner
  • That the property owner knew or should have known about the condition

Just because there is ice on a walkway doesn’t automatically mean you are responsible for the accident. If there is a faulty gutter that leaks water onto the same area that freezes and refreezes throughout the winter and the victim can prove you have known about it for some time, there may be a case there.

Again, though, these cases can get very tricky. A lawyer well-versed in slip and fall cases will know for certain whether the case has merit.

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.