Today in New York it's a rainy 35° and the ground is covered in certain parts with melting ice. Parking my car in the back of my office building left me on a large patch of ice. Feeling brave and fearless, I eagerly got out of my car and began the short walk to the front door of my building. My black leather shoes had zero traction despite my heel being made of rubber. Unfortunately, the day that I decided to park on a large patch of ice it figures that I was not wearing my snow boots.
It amazes me the speed at which someone goes from walking vertically to being flat on your back in a horizontal position looking straight up at the sky. I took one step on the uneven ice and in a fraction of a second wound up landing on my left elbow laying flat on the ground.
I know some people may find this amusing knowing that an attorney slipped and fell on ice in the back of his own office building, and that's OK. I also would have found it amusing and ironic except for the exquisite pain that remained in my elbow as I walked up to my office. Luckily for me, the pain dissipated and thankfully did not break anything, at least not that I know of.
This brought me back to thinking what an attorney must be able to prove in a case involving a slip and fall on ice in New York. We must show that the property owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. We also have to show that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient period of time so that the property owner should have fixed it to prevent injury to someone walking on their property.
In this particular case large patches of ice existed in the parking lot for an extended period of time. One could argue that the property owner knew or should have known of this icy condition. This is especially true since this is a heavily used and trafficked area for tenants in the building. A property owner cannot simply ignore or put their head in the sand and pretend the dangerous condition does not exist.
A property owner will typically argue that the changing weather conditions made it impossible for him to know exactly what the conditions were at any given time. This is especially true when temperatures rise above freezing during the day, and then as night approaches, the temperatures drop to below freezing levels and you have refreezing. In my case, I think it would be impossible for the owner to make that argument.
However, here's where many cases run into problems. Not only do we have to show that the property owner was responsible for the accident, but we also have to prove that the injuries you suffered are significant and/or permanent. What does this mean for someone who suffered bruising and the temporary loss of their dignity? It means that most experienced personal injury attorneys will shy away from taking a case unless the injuries are severe and serious.
The moral of the story?
It's time to have a nice chat with the owner of the building about ways to improve the parking lot to prevent people from suffering injury.