Property owner could be liable for police officer’s slip and fall injury
Under North Carolina law, a property owner must exercise reasonable care to provide for the safety of all lawful visitors. To prove an owner’s negligence in a slip and fall accident, the injured party must either show that the owner negligently created the condition leading to the injury, or failed to correct the condition after having notice of the situation.
In the recent case of Fox v. PGML, LLC, the North Carolina Court of Appeals discussed this area of the law.
An officer falls . . . while investigating a fatal fall
The property owners in this case rented out a building in Washington, North Carolina, which housed retail stores and apartments. The owners had hired a man to paint an exterior fire escape on the building. Unfortunately, the man fell to his death.
A City of Washington police officer was dispatched to investigate the man’s death. The officer climbed to the top of the stairs, gathering evidence regarding the fall. However, the steps were wet due to rainfall, and the officer also slipped and fell. The officer injured her shoulder, which later required surgical treatment.
The officer sued the property owners alleging negligence, arguing that the exterior fire escape was an unreasonably slippery surface under the North Carolina building code. In opposition, the owners argued that the stairs were in compliance with the building code, and provided the testimony of a civil engineer to that effect.
The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the property owners, before the officer could even have her full day in court. The officer appealed this decision.
Did the stairway comply with the minimum requirements?
In the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the officer argued that genuine issues of material fact remained regarding whether the fire escape had been properly maintained by the owners.
The officer had presented evidence that the fire stairway’s condition violated several requirements of the building code. Specifically, the officer argued that the stairway failed to meet the minimum requirements for proper guards on the sides of the stairs and that the stair riser height and depth also did not satisfy minimum requirements.
While the property owners had offered the testimony of a civil engineer saying the stairs did meet the requirements, the officer had likewise provided testimony from a consulting engineer which disputed this finding.
This conflicting evidence established a genuine issue of material fact regarding the officer’s personal injuries, meaning the trial court had erred in granting summary judgment to the property owner. The case was reversed, and the officer would have her full day in court.
The compensation you deserve
If you are injured due to hazardous or dangerous conditions on someone’s property, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who will investigate the scene of your accident, collect evidence, and work with medical experts and financial analysts to quantify the impact of your injury, in pursuit of the compensation you deserve.