A Wild Goose Chase

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Q: My mother fell down the basement stairs on premises owned by my boyfriend’s sister, who had permitted him to stay in her apartment while she was on vacation.  He invited me to join him, and I came with my mother, who suffers from dementia.

After my mother had eaten breakfast, she rose, and I saw her take two or three steps.  The next thing I knew, my mother had slipped and fallen down the basement stairs, which are around the corner fifteen feet away.  I had not noticed that something was slippery and do not know what, if anything, my mother slipped on.

A: An owner of property has a duty to maintain her premises so that they are reasonably safe.  This duty extends to any hazardous condition about which the owner has actual or constructive notice.  Except where the owner created the defective condition, it is necessary to establish that the condition either was known to the owner or had existed for a period of time sufficient to have allowed the owner to discover and correct it.

Even if any floor is inherently slippery, for a person in your mother’s state of health, that alone is not sufficient to support a cause of action for negligence.  It is fatal to the suit that there simply is no evidence that a defect caused this fall.

At best, your attorney may be able to find evidence of some prior injury or complaint about the floor, in order to support an inference that the very same hazardous condition still suggested.  However, to look for such proof is most likely a wild goose chase, and moreover the courts generally disallow that kind of inference as speculation.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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