From the Desk of Jeff Shaw, Attorney at Law

Why Suing Your Landlord for Your Slip and Fall is Different than Other Fall Cases

Posted by Jeff Shaw | Jan 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

It stands to reason that there are an enormous amount of slip and falls that occur in apartment buildings, complexes and other residential living facilities.

After all, that's where we spend most of time -- near home.  It's similar to that shocking statistic that the great majority of car accidents happens within 5 miles of where we live -- it's not a dangerous area where we live, it's just that we spend the great majority of our time near "home."

And most apartments have outside parking in big parking lots that require us to travel from our cars to the building at least twice a day.  So, it's undeniable that many slip and falls happen near where we live.

So, how is the slip and fall at our residence different than other slip and falls?

Jess clark

Well, it's different in two major fundamental ways:

1.  Unlike the slip and falls at a business or store, you aren't there to "shop" such that a jury might look at your claim more skeptically because they might not understand the full economic benefit you are providing to your landlord.  In other words, many jurors are very sympathetic to the shopper who falls in a store -- because the invitation was given and the purpose of the visit was to give money to the business.  Jurors might subconsciously apply a higher standard of being careful to the business that invites shoppers in contrast to a person returning or leaving their residence.

2.  The second fundamental difference is one of "notice."  We've talked about notice in other blogs here before.  Jurors are typically more skeptical for people injured where they live.  This is usually because of notice -- that the victim is very knowledgeable or should be knowledgeable about any defect or dangerous condition of the land that is long-standing in nature.

For example, I've represented many victims who believe the longer a defect has existed, the better her case should be and complaints about pot holes, cracks or broken parking bumpers that have existed "for a long time" are often made.  But, the flip side is also true -- a good defense lawyer will argue that this defect is actually known by the victim or should have been avoided due to the knowledge.

This is a fundamental method in which slip and falls are different where you live.  In a store, the defect is unknown to you generally speaking.  A spill of water or milk in a grocery store aisle might have existed for a sufficient period of time for the landowner or store manager to notice it and correct it -- but for you, it might have been your first few moments in that area.

Apartment parking lot defects involving unlevel cracks or potholes or broken parking bumpers are different.  Those dangerous items might have existed for a long enough period that you will be assumed to have avoided the danger.

Snow and Ice in parking lots and sidewalks can also be a tricky situation, too.  Most often, I will hear clients who allege that "the parking lots are always icy" or that "management does a terrible job in cleaning up snow or ice."  I know the idea is to cast a shadow over the landowner's ability to properly maintain its property in a condition that is safe for tenants.  But, once again, a pattern of routine mismanagement when it comes to cleaning up ice and snow can cut both ways.

A good defense lawyer might start a cross-examination of the plaintiff in this fashion:

Q.  So, you allege that your landlord failed repeatedly to take good care of a parking lot after a snowfall or in icy conditions?

A.  Yes, that is right.

Q.  So, you knew that in living there, you needed to be extra careful when you were in the parking lot compared to other places you traveled?

A.  Yes, of course.

Q.  So, on this morning you knew it had snowed recently?

A.  Yes I did.

Q.  Did you notice the snow and ice, sir?

A.  Yes, I did.

Q.  And you know that snow and ice is slippery?

A.  Yes, of course.

Q.  Then why did you take that risk and step on it? 

A.  I don't know what to say.....

Q.  That's not being "extra careful" like you just said you needed to be a moment, ago, is it?

This type of questioning by a defense lawyer has been around for ages.  And it is very typical.  The truly disheartening thing is that many jurors believe this to be an effective defense to a slip and fall injury case.  And the Indiana law seems to support this conclusion.  Even worse, an injured person can be blamed equally by the defense for the opposite answer, too !

Q.  Did you notice the snow and ice, sir?

A.  No, I did not.

Q.  Well, you knew the weather was cold enough for snow and ice to be present, didn't you?

A.  Yes, of course it was cold.

Q.  Then why did you not be more careful and look where you were stepping?  You asked for this to happen, didn't you?

A.  I don't know what to say.....

It appears as though a slip and fall injured person loses either way, right?


A good plaintiff's attorney will argue 2 major things in response:

1.  Landlords have a duty to be "extra careful" because they know tenants of all kinds -- healthy and infirm, young and old -- live there and must travel in those parking lots and sidewalks.  Tenants have no choice but to be there.

2.  A good plan of removing snow and ice is not something that is developed that morning -- in fact, most professional landlords have a detailed, written plan in advance of any bad weather.

Either way, "notice" is a big issue in slip and fall cases where you live.

The best thing to do is consult with your attorney about proper answers and avoid the "this problem has been around forever"-type argument that is often made by emotional victims of a slip and fall.

Shaw Law Offices can help.


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About the Author

Jeff Shaw

Jeff Shaw has over 25+ years of experience trying personal injury lawsuits with over 100+ jury/bench trials. His reputation is one of fierceness in the court room mixed with good humor.


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