At Willis, Willis & Rizzi we are often contacted by someone who has sustained an injury while falling in a store or at a place of business, and the law refers to these situations as “premises liability” cases. Additionally, we also hear the phrase “slip and fall” when describing these types of cases which generally indicates that you were not injured by someone else or in a motor vehicle collision, you were injured as a result of the condition of the property that you were on.
These types of premises liability claims both in the State of Ohio and nationally place a much higher burden on the injured person than other types of personal injury claims. For example, if your neighbor is injured in a motor vehicle collision, and you are injured in a premises liability claim, your case is a much more difficult case. In a motor vehicle collision, you only need to prove that the other motorist wasn’t abiding by the pertinent motor vehicle laws and was behind the wheel at the time the collision occurred.
A premises liability case is far more challenging. The burden upon the injured party falls into two broad categories:
- What does the owner know about the condition of the property where the injury occurred.
- What did you know about the condition of the property where the injury occurred.
As an example, let’s say there is an exterior staircase and one of the treads fails, and you go through the stairs and are injured. This is a surprisingly common type of premises injury. The question in a situation like this is what did the property owner know regarding the condition of the staircase, and what did you know?
If you can prove that the property owner had some specific notice about the condition of the staircase, you are in a much better position. We often have cases where the property owner or landlord is out-of-state, and they will argue they are an “absentee landlord” and that they had no knowledge or notice of the condition of the staircase. Sadly, in the State of Ohio an absentee landlord is far more insulated than a local property owner, where you can argue that the local property owner was present and should have known that the staircase was dangerously unfit. This puts out-of-state Wall Street investors at an unfair advantage to local property owners right here in our community; a law that should be changed.
On the other side of the equation, if the property owner can prove that you knew the staircase was in bad shape then they can kick your claim out of court under what’s called the “open and obvious” doctrine. This can lead into some real legal battles going back and forth with determining who knew the staircase was unfit. In an example like this the case is not completely hopeless, but you have to prove that the landlord had a greater expertise in evaluating that the stairs were dangerous. Again, it can be a real challenge to prove that you didn’t have sufficient notice yourself of the condition of the stairs.
Hidden Defect Cases
Many times, what happens is what is referred to as a “hidden defect”. For example, you are walking along the sidewalk and step on a manhole cover, and it gives way, and you go with it. There is no way you could’ve known that was going to happen. That is a hidden defect, and the open and obvious doctrine doesn’t apply in this type of case.
Personal Injuries That Occur in Stores
In other cases, such as if you are injured in a store particularly if you are injured in the parking lot from a pothole, ice, uneven pavement, etc., in those circumstances it becomes important if you were going into the store when the injury occurred or if you were leaving. If you were leaving, it can be argued that you had an opportunity to observe the pothole or parking lot conditions on your way into the store, and that you could have avoided being injured on the way out.
Landlord Tenant cases
It is important to note that if an injury such as this happens in or on a residential premises that’s being rented there is a statute in Ohio called the Landlord Tenant law that can govern how this type of case can play out. A specific set of statutes governs the duties and responsibilities a landlord has, and many of these responsibilities are higher and more clearly defined than duties other property owners have.
If you are injured in a “big box” store, these are large corporate entities, so there will be insurance coverage available, however the law is very much against you as the injured party. Typically you have to be able to prove there is no way you could’ve known about the incident.
These types of stores have video surveillance cameras so it’s important to reach out to a team like Willis, Willis & Rizzi so we can get that video footage or send a preservation letter for the store to save the video, since that footage doesn’t last forever.
Why hire Willis, Willis & Rizzi to handle your premises liability case?
Premises liability cases present many challenges, and you need an experienced team who has been through the process many times. These are extremely difficult cases to prove. We have been through the courts of appeal regarding premises liability cases, and have the battle-scarred victories to prove it.
Contact Willis, Willis & Rizzi today at 330-535-2000 to discuss your premises liability case.