Negligence & Liability Cases
You or a loved one or friend take a bad fall on a slippery sidewalk, or fall down some stairs at a movie theater, or slip on some grapes that fell onto the supermarket floor. You break your hip, fracture your arm, get a concussion. It is a horrible shock, because in most slip and fall cases, the accident happens immediately without any warning, and your body is not prepared for the fall.Everyone says, “Call an attorney!” – and that is good advice because a personal injury lawyer can evaluate your particular slip and fall case and let you know if it is one that has the potential for a settlement either pre-trial, or in a courtroom.
Our Video Discusses Slip and Fall Cases using Examples from our Experience
Some slip and fall case are cut and dry where a store or municipality knew of a potentially dangerous issue and did not within a reasonable amount of time rectify the situation, while other cases have different circumstances that would make it difficult to prove negligence. This video will elaborate on the criteria for a successful slip and fall case with candid discussion between Chester County / West Chester PA personal injury attorneys Peter Hart and Stephen Hart, using many examples of past cases that were either taken on, or deemed too thin and inconclusive to proceed to the next step.
Personal Injury Slip and Fall Case Conversation Video Transcript:
CAPTION: KARP & HART
STEPHEN KARP: Pete how are you doing today?
Surveillance videos are used by insurance companies in personal injury lawsuits where the plaintiff has sustained big injuries. They send out an investigator with a video camera who is instructed to follow the plaintiff around in his or her daily activities for a few days. The investigator never reveals themselves, and may be several blocks away with a zoom camera or parked across the street from the plaintiff’s home in a windowless van. The plaintiff, therefore, never knows when he may be under surveillance.
Surveillance is legal. It isn’t an invasion of privacy even though someone is sneaking around taking pictures of you without your permission. When a person files a lawsuit, they are subject to the insurance company investigating them and their injuries – including video surveillance. There are exceptions, however. The insurance company investigator may not trespass on your property or physically abuse you. Having said that, I have had clients report surveillance people coming onto their porch and peeking through their windows.
Personal Injury Plaintiffs Caught on Camera
Insurance companies sometimes catch plaintiffs who are lying about their injuries. The plaintiff may say in a deposition that he is unable to lift anything over ten pounds, and then a video is presented at trial showing him doing his chores around town lifting extremely heavy objects. I have never had a surveillance of one of my clients showing them performing activity which was in excess of what they testified they could perform. That doesn’t mean that the insurance company won’t use the surveillance video. The normal surveillance video will show someone getting in and out of their car, going to the store, and performing the normal tasks that an injured person can do. But when the video is shown, for some reason it usually looks sinister. Just filming someone conveys the notion that they are sneaking around doing something wrong. A recent video of one of my clients showed them smoking a cigarette on their driveway, but when you look at the video, it appears that they’re trying to hide the fact that they’re smoking, like back in high school.
My Legal Strategy with Surveillance Videos in the Courtroom
I tried to use the surveillance video to strengthen my case. I explained to the jury that the defense followed my client around for five days in an attempt to find him doing strenuous activity, but all they got is video showing him engaged in the normal activities of life.
The use of surveillance videos is just another ploy by insurance companies to attack the injured plaintiff when they file a lawsuit.
As a personal injury lawyer who handles slip and fall cases in the West Chester County area of Pennsylvania, occasionally I receive calls from prospective clients wishing to file claims against property owners for injuries they have suffered when a slip, trip or fall unfortunately happens to them. The callers almost always assume they are entitled to recover damages for the injuries from the property owner no matter what the circumstances of the fall. This could not be further from the truth.
For example, I had researched a case recently where a person slipped and fell in a department store. However, the potential client could not identify what he slipped and fell on other than that his hand felt damp when he placed it on the floor. This is not enough to win a case.
Pennsylvania Slip and Fall Case Overview
The standard of care owed by the owner of land to a person who enters the land depends upon whether the person who entered is an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser.
An invitee is a public or business visitor. This is a person who is invited to enter on the land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public (such as a public park). A business visitor is a person who is invited to enter or remain on land for the purpose of directly or indirectly conducting business dealings with the owner or occupier of the land (shopping mall). A licensee is any other person permitted to enter with the owner’s consent. Another category which affords less rights to an individual is a trespasser. This is a person who enters the property without a right or privilege to do so. The only duty owed to a trespasser is to refrain from wanton or willful conduct. Other than that, they are on their own.
The owner of a business property is only required to use reasonable care to maintain the property. In other words, protect invitees from what they call “foreseeable” harm that the visitor may not recognize. An owner of land is required to periodically inspect his premises to discover dangerous situations and to correct them. In my slip and fall case example there are two questions; (1) was the floor really defective (wet) and (2) how long had it been wet. Had somebody come out of the store a minute before and dropped liquid or had the liquid been laying there long enough that a reasonable inspection would have discovered the problem giving the property owner time to clean it up? My client did know – and my investigation was unable to tell.
The owner of land is liable for harm caused to invitees by a condition on the land if:
The owner or occupier of land is liable to an invitee for any harm that the owner or occupier should have anticipated, regardless of whether the danger is known or obvious.
In the case of this particular slip and fall situation, the gentleman who fell, although he was a business invitee and (therefore a high degree of care was owed), he still could not prove what the dangerous condition was or that the floor was in a dangerous condition for such a long time that it should have been spotted and cleaned up.
I did not take the case. My experience as a personal injury attorney clearly told me that there was thin evidence, and that this unfortunate individual would not benefit from a lawsuit.
I recently read an article appearing in the March 2013 AARP Magazine which reported about the tragic death of an elderly 94 year old nursing home resident who had been found severely dehydrated and malnourished in her room. This, despite the fact that she was living in a nursing home facility that was supposed to be watching her around the clock. Her family had been paying for that service.
Given that Pennsylvania’s regulatory enforcement is, to say the least, less than adequate, to protect nursing home residents from nursing home abuse and neglect, it is imperative that the elderly be able to file claims in court. This enables the trial lawyers to represent them with the hope that jury verdicts against such neglectful facilities will force these facilities to clean up their acts.
Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer Successful Lawsuit
The plaintiffs sued both the facility and, in this case, its parent corporation claiming that both companies had knowingly understaffed the facility to save money and had altered records to hide the substandard care they had rendered.
In November 2012, both the nursing facility and the management company were held liable for “corporate negligence.” This was the first time that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explicitly extended such liability beyond nursing homes to also cover their parent companies.
Nursing homes and their parent corporations have a high duty of care to protect the elderly who have contracted with them for such protection. Senior citizens in any nursing or assisted living facilities need to be cared for and not abused and neglected. Family members should remain proactive to evaluate the level of care given, and if anything becomes questionable, consult with an experience nursing home abuse and neglect attorney.