The Big Pile

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Q: On a pile of wet leaves on one of the steps of an exterior staircase, I slipped and fell.  The staircase consisted of 20 steps leading to the basement.  It was a two-inch thick pile of wet, matted-down leaves on the seventh step going down.  The sky was overcast, a light at the bottom of the staircase was not working, and I could only see as far as the fifth step going down.

The building manager cannot remember whether he had checked this staircase on his last weekly inspection prior to my accident.  He does not know whether the landscaper or anyone else was responsible for removing leaves from the staircase.

A: The owner may contend that the pile was an ‘open and obvious’ hazard, so that he or she is less liable than otherwise.  Because of the inadequate illumination, it sounds like this hazard was not ‘open and obvious’.  Even if was, your attorney is likely to argue that the pile of leaves was ‘inherently dangerous’ – so that the open and obvious nature of the condition at worst presents an issue as to your comparative negligence.

A property owner has a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk.  Most likely, a two-inch thick pile of wet, matted-down leaves had been there for a sufficient period of time for the owner to discover and remedy it, so that the owner had constructive, even if not actual, notice.  Your attorney will seek to gather further evidence that this is so.

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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