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What the Phrase ‘Optical Confusion’ Means and How it Can Help You in Your New York Premises Liability Case

Brooklyn BrownstoneIn slip and fall cases, there can be a wide array of conditions that allow you to recover compensation for the harm you suffered in your fall. Even if the possessor of the property properly maintained the property, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily free from liability. With the help and advocacy of skilled New York premises liability attorneys, you can still win your case. In a recent example, a woman was allowed to proceed to trial in her premises liability case because she had evidence that the step she missed was something that was easily overlooked.

This case involved an innocent mistake, an unfortunate accident, and the injuries that resulted from that accident. Carmen went to Brooklyn to visit her niece, who lived at 333 Union Street. Carmen accidentally went to the door at 335 Union. Carmen hit the buzzer, but no one answered. She called her niece, and the niece came outside to meet Carmen. Carmen turned to leave the 335 Union property and, in the process, missed the step that went from the platform to the sidewalk. She fell and suffered injuries as a result.

Carmen sued for her injuries. The building owner asked the trial court to issue a summary judgment in its favor and end the plaintiff’s case. The defendant argued that its property complied with all relevant statutes, regulations, and codes. The defendant also asserted that the area was maintained in good and safe condition and that the plaintiff did not fall as a result of any flaw, defect, or hazard. The step was open and obvious and was not inherently dangerous, it argued.

The court rejected the defendant’s request and allowed the plaintiff to proceed with her case. The court’s ruling is an important decision for those who may have suffered a slip and fall. Just because the area where you fell didn’t have some sort of blatant issue like a massive crack or another clear maintenance defect doesn’t mean that the party responsible for that property necessarily met its legal obligations and that you cannot win a premises liability case.

Sometimes, things like steps, even though they are out in the open, may still not be “open and obvious” as defined by the law. That can happen when hazards are, due to their nature or location, “technically visible” but “likely to be overlooked.” If, for example, a step creates what other courts have called “optical confusion,” which is the illusion of a flat surface that hides from view the existence of a step, you as a plaintiff may have a winning case. Elements that can strengthen your case may include proof of things like “inadequate warning of the drop, coupled with poor lighting, inadequate demarcation between raised and lowered areas, or some other distraction or similar dangerous condition.”

Carmen had evidence in her case that the step that felled her was an example of an optical confusion situation. The step and the sidewalk allegedly were the same color. Additionally, her expert testified that the step was outside the line of sight, especially for someone walking away from the building. All of this was enough to overcome the defense’s request for summary judgment and allow the plaintiff to take her case to trial.

In Carmen’s case, she was able to go to trial because, even though the step didn’t have any major maintenance issues, she had proof that it potentially was still dangerous. To get the compensation you deserve in your premises liability case, you need counsel who will combine your facts and the law to make a winning presentation for you. The hardworking Queens premises liability attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman have been helping people injured in slip and fall and trip and fall cases for many years, and we are ready to talk to you about your case. To schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys, contact us toll-free at 718-896-2700 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

New York Cleaning Worker’s Injury Case Goes Forward After Homeowners Fail to Show Hazard was ‘Open and Obvious’, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Aug. 29, 2017

Establishing the Circumstantial Evidence You Need in a Stairway Fall Case in New York, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, May 2, 2017

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