Thinking About Yesterday

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Q: One evening, while thinking about yesterday and going down a stairway in a two-family house, I fell.  I had rented the upstairs apartment for over 20 years.  It was always too dark in that stairway.  In addition, there was a loose top step and a loose screw on the landing.  One or more of these conditions is why I fell.  My friend says it’s my own fault: after all those years, I should have known better.

A: Until 1975, under the doctrine of ‘contributory negligence’, a personal-injury victim was required to prove himself or herself free from even the slightest degree of negligence in contributing to the occurrence.  You had no suit for negligence, if you had contributed, in the slightest degree, to the accident.  Your landlady’s negligence was not sufficient to justify a recovery.  Two elements were necessary, her negligence being one, and your freedom from contributory negligence being the other.

All that changed in 1975, when the Legislature replaced the rule of contributory negligence with a policy of comparative negligence.

A property owner, or a party in possession or control of real property, has a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.  He or she has constructive notice of a hazardous condition on property when the condition is visible and apparent, and has existed for a sufficient length of time to afford a reasonable opportunity to discover and remedy it.  It seems that your landlady fits that bill.  Consult an attorney.

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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