I Slipped and Fell on Someone Else’s Property. Are They Liable?

Think you might need a Portland slip and fall attorney? Your first thought if you injure yourself in public might be “I’m so clumsy” or “How embarrassing!” But often it’s not completely your fault. Don’t be hard on yourself! Maybe a store owner ignored a burned-out lightbulb that made it difficult to see, or they didn’t dry off their shop entrance after a heavy rainstorm. Not only do companies have to fix problems that could injure customers, but Oregon law requires them to check and try to prevent future dangers from arising. If you had an accident and think the property owner might be to blame, keep reading.

Oregon has different standards for customers, friends, and trespassers. That can make things slightly complicated. (For instance, if you’re trespassing at an abandoned construction site and hurt yourself, the law can’t protect you as much as if you were holiday shopping.) Let me give you a brief overview of important terms, and then I’ll run you through two hypothetical situations.

Slip & Fall Terms

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Premises liability: Premises liability includes slip-and-fall cases as well as those involving snow, ice, fires, dog bites, and toxic fumes. These personal injury cases deal with getting injured on someone else’s property. Basically, if someone owns property and you have a right to be there, you shouldn’t have to worry about your health or safety!

Duty of care: Oregon law requires homeowners and especially business owners to uphold their “duty of care” by keeping you reasonably safe. If you accidentally get hurt because they weren’t cautious or alert, the jury could find them negligent.

Invitees: This is another way of saying “customers.” If you go to work, do business, or turn in a job application, you’re an invitee. Companies are legally required to fix any hazards so invitees are safe. Not only that, Oregon law says they have to “reasonably inspect for” other hazards and repair them.

Licensees: If you are allowed to visit a business but have no business relationship with the owner, you’re a licensee. FindLaw says, “A social guest at a residence is normally considered a licensee.” It also includes unsolicited salespeople. The standards are slightly lower for licensees than for invitees. Business owners are still required to keep the property safe for you, but they aren’t required to sniff out unknown dangers like they are for invitees.

Trespassers: If you’re not authorized to be on someone else’s property, you’re a trespasser. Homeowners and business owners aren’t legally responsible to protect trespassers from danger unless they’re children. But they can’t harm you, either. And if a property owner knows people are trespassing often, they could be held accountable if you seriously injure yourself due to a situation they created and hid from you. (If a grocery store knows people are stealing food from its dumpsters, they cannot legal booby-trap the dumpsters!)

Now on to two sample slip-and-fall scenarios. Remember that this does not constitute legal advice. Call us for a free consultation with a Portland slip and fall attorney.

Slippery Stairs at Lloyd Center

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You head to Lloyd Center for some holiday shopping. It’s raining heavily, and you have to go down several stairs from the parking garage to enter the main department store.

Unfortunately, the steps are wet and slippery, because other customers had dripping umbrellas and wet coats. You try to be careful, but you slip and fall on the stairs. Your pride is hurt, and so is your tailbone -- in fact, it’s badly bruised. Not only do you need medical care, but you’ll have to miss a day of work at your construction job because you can’t stand up for that long. Is the department store owner liable?

In this case, you’re an invitee. The department store owner is responsible for regularly checking the stairs and keeping them safe and dry (or delegating to an employee). Although a jury won’t expect a store owner to sit next to stairs all day, the store owner should schedule and document regular safety checks of the area. If the owner can’t prove that anyone inspected or dried off the steps all day, you and your Portland slip and fall attorney could win your case. (A version of this actually happened in Florida, when a shopper slipped on a wet floor in Walmart, and a jury awarded her $800,000.)

The Spilled Soda at the Movie Theater

After seeing the latest blockbuster, you pour out of the movie theater with everyone else. Not seeing a “Caution” sign, and jam-packed in the crowd, you slip and fall on a patch of slick floor where someone else had spilled soda. Is the movie theater liable?

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This will depend on three factors: whether the cinema caused the dangerous condition (possibly), whether they knew about it (probably not), and whether they should have known (maybe).

Your Portland slip and fall attorney will look at factors such as whether trash cans were overflowing. If there was nowhere to toss a half-full soda after the movie, and someone set it on top of the trash can, and it fell off and spilled, the cinema could be liable for not regularly emptying the trash. Further, if the cinema knew about the spill, there should have been a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign. A good Portland slip and fall attorney will investigate whether the theater employees made “regular and thorough” attempts to ensure the area was safe. If the staff is lax about checking the floors, you could win your case.

The Bottom Line

Slip-and-fall cases are serious. It’s not just the elderly; children are commonly injured too. And injuries can range from minor things to lifelong, traumatic brain and spinal damage. Don’t be ashamed or let insurance companies pressure you into minimizing your injuries!

These cases hinge on whether your Portland personal injury attorney can prove a property owner failed to take reasonable care to ensure the area was safe. Make sure you immediately seek medical care and document that the property at least partially caused your injury. Even if you just take cellphone photos of the floor, trash cans, and surrounding area, they can help win your case and get you the compensation you deserve. You shouldn’t have to pay expensive medical bills and miss work for something that wasn’t your fault!

Have you or someone you know suffered a slip-and-fall injury? My firm can help you get justice. Contact us today.

Call now for a free consultation: 503-227-3800

Sources:

Property Owners' Legal Duty to Prevent Injury

What Is a Duty of Care?

What Is Premises Liability?

Slip-and-Fall Accidents Overview

Photo of woman: Denise P.S.