One of the most important elements of proving a slip-and-fall claim is demonstrating the the owner of the premises knew or was on notice of dangerous condition, some time before the slip-and-call injury. After all, the owner or the operator of the property is generally held liable only if he/she knew or had a reason to know of the dangerous condition, and failed to take action to remedy it.
Thus, if you notice a condition on the property that you might be using or renting, it's in your best interest to notify the owner of that condition in writing. If there is no response to your letter/fax/e-mail and the property owner doesn't fix the condition within a month or so, continue follow up in writing. Make sure that you have a proof that your letters were received. If you send a letter by mail, make sure that you receive confirmation of delivery. If you fax your letters, keep the facsimile transmission confirmation sheets, and if you e-mail, request read-receipt (although usually it is presumed that an e-mail was received).
Later, if you have the bad luck of being injured because of the dangerous condition that wasn't repaired as requested, those letters will be critical evidence in proving negligence and your ability to recover for your injuries and damages.
The general rule is that a carrier (an airline) owes its passengers the highest degree of care. Acosta v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist., 2 Cal.3d 19, 27. But this rule applies while the passengers are in transit, and until they have safely departed from the carrier's vehicle. The care required of the carrier for the protection of a passenger on its premises involves reasonable care to provide and maintain safe and adequate stations, platforms, walks, steps, and landings for use in waiting for, approaching, and leaving trains or other means of conveyance in which the transportation is to be, or has been furnished. Robson v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 70 Cal.App.2d 759, 761.
The qualification to the general rules has to be stressed. The duty to exercise the highest degree of care toward passengers ends when the passenger is discharged into a relatively safe place, not merely that he alights safely from the carrier's vehicle, if he is discharged into a dangerous area.
The rule of highest degree care will also apply when the passenger enters and until he leaves the locality. Such an area is ordinarily attended and closely observed by the airline's personnel; it may be reasonably assumed that they have notice of, and are enabled to correct or warn the passenger of, any dangerous condition at that part of the landing field.
The crucial element in proving a slip-and-fall case is demonstrating that the owner or other entity responsible for maintaining the property on which you slipped and fell was negligent in maintaining his/her property in a reasonably safe way.
Generally, if you are a customer on a property (for instance, if you are shopping at a store), the owner of that business has a higher duty to protect you not only from the conditions that the owner knew of but also the ones that he had a reason to know of. In other words, if a reasonable business owner would have known of a certain dangerous condition and would have taken steps to prevent it or fix it, but the property owner in your incident failed to do so, you are likely to be entitled to a recovery.
Let’s compare and contrast two different slip-and-fall scenarios, one of which is likely to give rise to the property owner’s liability for an injury, while in the other case the injured person is unlikely to prevail in his/her case against the property owner:
1. John goes into a pharmacy store in San Francisco and while trying to pick out a shampoo in the hair-products isle, he slips and falls on a spilled hair lotion. The investigation shows that the lotion was spilled when the store’s employee was unpacking and placing the hair product on the shelf and that employee didn’t thoroughly clean the area before leaving and didn’t put a warning sign in that area as often required. Under these circumstances, John has a good chance to win his slip-and-fall case against the store, because it was ultimately the store’s responsibility to maintain the shopping area in a safe manner and the store’s employee was negligent by failing to maintain the safe conditions in the store or warn customers against a dangerous condition.
2. Brad goes into a grocery store and while walking through the magazines isle, slips and falls on blueberry jam that was spilled by a customer 5 minutes before the incident. The investigation reveals that the store has a strict policy of having its employee walk through the store and inspect the floor and the shelves every hour. Under this circumstances, Brad will have a hard time to recover for his slip-and-fall injuries. First, the store owner didn’t create the dangerous condition; one of the customers did. Secondly and even more importantly, the store was probably not negligent because it did what a reasonable person would have done to maintain its property by requiring frequent and periodic inspections throughout the store. Arkady Itkin, Esq.