Published on:

Winning Your New York Premises Liability Case Even if You Made Modifications to the Property

Many people may understand a bit about how premises liability cases (like trip and fall or slip and fall actions) proceed. The injured person accuses the person or entity responsible for the safety, maintenance, repair, and upkeep of a property with some action or inaction that caused the injured person to slip or trip, fall, and suffer harm. However, what happens when the thing that caused you to fall was something that you placed on the property? When that happens, your intervening action means that you cannot win, right? Not necessarily. Depending on the facts of your case, you may still have a clear ability to secure a favorable outcome. A knowledgeable New York premises liability attorney can advise you on how you can recover damages in your case.

Here’s an example of a plaintiff in such a scenario who successfully defeated his landlords’ attempt to get his case thrown out on summary judgment. The tenant, Laszlo, rented an apartment in a building owned by Harry and Donna. According to the tenant, there was a problem with the property:  the step from the landing to the doorway of the apartment building was too high to traverse. To address this problem, the tenant decided to place some bricks or blocks on the landing to create an extra step and make the area more easily accessible.

One day, though, Laszlo stepped on his bricks and one moved, which caused him to fall. Laszlo suffered injuries as a result of his fall, so he sued. In his slip and fall lawsuit, Laszlo asserted a claim of premises liability. In any lawsuit asserting a premises liability claim, the injured person must demonstrate that there was an area that was hazardous, that the hazard was what caused the injuries, and that the property owner (or other person or entity that was legally responsible for the property’s maintenance, upkeep, and safety) either knew about the hazard or reasonably should have known about it.

In any premises liability case, as with most types of cases, the more bases you can provide to the court for ruling in your favor, the stronger your case likely will be and the better your chances of a successful outcome. Laszlo did that in his case. He had multiple things that he claimed were dangerous about the entry area where he fell. The step was too high (which forced him to add the bricks), there was no hand rail on one side of the door, and the landlord installed a screen door that limited access to the hand rail positioned on the other side of the door, according to the tenant. Allegedly, the landlords knew about these problems but did not take action to fix them.

There are various ways that a property owner can defend a premises liability case successfully. One way, which was the approach Laszlo’s landlords used in his case, is to argue that the injured person caused his own injuries. Laszlo’s landlords argued that, when the tenant placed the bricks on the landing, that became a “superseding intervening act.” In other words, by putting the bricks down, Laszlo’s intervention became the sole cause of the accident, and the landlords could not be legally liable.

The courts, however, didn’t agree. Just because Laszlo stepped in and placed the bricks on the landing, and he later fell on those bricks, didn’t automatically mean that the landlords couldn’t be liable. The law says that landlords can be liable for anything that is a “normal or foreseeable consequence of the situation created by” their improper action or inaction.

In this case, the landlords hadn’t proven that the events that eventually did unfold (including the insertion of the bricks) weren’t a normal and foreseeable consequence of their failure to address the alleged problems with the step and the hand rails. This meant that the tenant was entitled to proceed to trial to seek to prove that his injuries were a reasonably foreseeable result of the landlords’ inaction.

If you’re hurt in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident, contact the experienced Queens premises liability attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman. Our attorneys have been working hard for many years to help injured people seek what they deserve. To schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys, contact us toll-free at 877-754-3099 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

What the Phrase ‘Optical Confusion’ Means and How it Can Help You in Your New York Premises Liability Case, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Sept. 13, 2017

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

Contact Information