Slip and fall claims related to winter weather are typically tough to win.
The law states that a property owner is not the “guarantor” of a customer’s safety. Rather, the landlord has the duty to keep the premises reasonably safe and warn customers of any risks that are not apparent upon reasonable inspection.
North Carolina’s contributory negligence law says that a claim can be barred, even if the landlord is at fault, if the customer did not use “reasonable care” to protect himself from injury.
The technical laws are all well and good but how do they play out in real life?
A customer who falls on snow or ice in a parking lot cannot prevail if the winter weather is visible or could be seen by a reasonable person. In addition, we must be able to show what the customer fell in – simply slipping and falling is not enough. There must be some defect, such as water on a shiny floor, that cannot be seen. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like when a customer was distracted by an advertisement and tripped over something that he could have seen, had he not been distracted. But you should know that those cases are very few and far between. A good rule of thumb is that if you did, or should have, seen the hazard and you tripped on it anyway, you have no claim.
The type of cases that are typically most successful are those where the defect was hidden. One of Paul Daniels’ clients was walking down the steps at an apartment complex when a concrete step gave way. The client tore his rotator cuff while trying to maintain balance on the hand rail. After an investigation we discovered the apartment owner knew the steps needed repair – and had even marked some to be replaced. Importantly, the step that had collapsed had not been marked and that staircase was the only way to get to the client’s apartment. Paul Daniels obtained a six-figure settlement for the client.