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Premises Liability

What is needed to prove a slip-and-fall case?

In New York City, residents often face the risk of staircase accidents in the infinite number of apartment buildings and other residences throughout the city. To prove liability and obtain compensation for damages suffered in a fall on a slippery surface, certain proof is vital.

To establish a premises liability case — like a staircase accident — a plaintiff must prove that the landlord or building owner owed the plaintiff a duty of care and that the defendant breached that duty of care. In proving a slip and fall case, the plaintiff must identify the cause of the fall to show that it was the proximate cause of the accident.

A plaintiff in these cases must, at least, be able to identify the area of the fall. An expert can testify about the proximate cause of the fall. In many cases, such as where high enamel gloss paint on an interior stairs was blamed for a fall, the expert has to show that testing was performed on the stairwell surface and that it showed that the paint, wax or other element caused the defective condition. The expert may also or cite specific industry standards indicating that the paint or other element was slippery. Proving that wax or polish was applied negligently can also sustain these liability cases.

In June, the Supreme Court of Bronx County ruled on a case where the plaintiff claimed that he fell down an interior stairwell of an apartment building while he was visiting his friend. He alleged that he slipped and fell because the step were slippery. He did not know the exact steps where he fell but could locate the general area of the fall. The plaintiff argued that the defendant used high gloss paint that eliminated the non-skid areas built onto the concrete steps.

The plaintiff’s expert merely claimed that the steps were slippery. The Court dismissed this cause of action, accordingly, because he did not identify the tests that were conducted on the step’s stairwell and did not cite any specific industry standards indicating that this paint would cause an unsafe condition. The Court also found that the plaintiff repeatedly used these stairs before the accident with no difficulties.

Proving these cases requires legal expertise and obtaining factual and technical information. Prompt legal advice can help victims of landlord negligence and protect the right to reasonable compensation for serious injuries.

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