In the Laundry Room

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Q: In the laundry room of my apartment building, the washing machines are placed on a platform, 10 inches high.  There is a step in front of the platform.  After putting my laundry in the machine, I went onto the step to put soap in the soap tray.  When I pulled the tray out of the washing machine, the tray did not stop, as it is supposed to.  Rather, the tray came all the way out.  I lost my balance and fell backward.  I understand that a company named LaundCo leased the laundry room and was responsible for maintaining it.

A: Your attorney will argue (a) that, as the lessee of the laundry room, LaundCo had a common-law duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition; (b) that this soap tray was defective, in that the clip that was supposed to prevent it from sliding out was broken; and (c) that the defect caused your fall.

Your attorney also will argue that LaundCo either created the defect or had notice of it.  This is because, in a negligence action, the defendant is not considered an ‘insurer’ of your safety.  Rather, the defendant must actually have done something wrong: must have failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances.

Your biggest challenge may be showing that LaundCo had either actual or constructive ‘notice’ that the soap tray was broken.  Basically, a defendant has constructive notice of a hazardous condition when the condition (a) is visible and apparent, or would be discoverable upon a reasonable inspection, and (b) has existed for a sufficient length of time to afford the defendant a reasonable opportunity to discover and remedy it.  If LaundCo can show that another tenant deliberately broke that clip only an hour prior to your accident, LaundCo may not be liable.

Suppose that LaundCo did not perform routine maintenance on these machines.  Rather, they would be serviced only when LaundCo received a call.  Your attorney will argue that LaundCo should indeed have performed frequent maintenance – at which the technician would open the soap tray to make sure it was secure.  You need only prove a sufficient likelihood that your injury was caused by this failure to perform maintenance, not a certainty.

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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