The Little Piece
Q: For the very first time, I had visited my friend’s apartment building. Now, I was leaving, via a staircase in the lobby, using the handrail. One of the light bulbs was out.
Each of the horizontal step-treads had a one-inch nosing that projected over the riser below. On the second-to-last step-tread, I happened to step on a part of the nosing where a piece was missing. According to my measurements, the chip was one-and-a-half inches wide and at least a quarter-inch deep, irregular in shape. My right leg got caught, it twisted, and I fell. Afterwards, we took a few photographs.
A: The landlord is likely to invoke the ‘trivial defect’ doctrine: if a defect is so slight that no careful or prudent person would reasonably anticipate any danger from its existence, and yet an accident occurs that is traceable to the defect, there is no liability.
Your attorney will respond that there is no ‘minimal dimension test’ or per se rule; a defect need not be of a certain minimum size in order to be actionable. A number of factors can render a physically-small defect actionable, including a jagged edge, a rough, irregular surface, the presence of other defects in the vicinity, poor lighting, or a location (such as here) where you would be naturally distracted from looking down at your feet.
Your attorney may well want to show that the defect was of a kind that must have existed for a long time, and that it was sufficiently visible and apparent to permit the landlord’s employees to discover and remedy it. In this way, the landlord had what the law calls ‘notice’.
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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