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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for banana peel.jpgI have already blogged about how surveillance cameras have made slam dunk cases out of slam dunk losers. Here’s another example. Just this week I took in a doubtful slip-and-fall case. The plaintiff slipped and fell on some liquid of unknown origin in the produce section of a local supermarket. In the pre-surveillance-camera era, this case would have been a loser. Why? Because you have to show either that the supermarket created the spill, or knew about it and did nothing to fix it, or failed to notice it when it should have noticed it. And how do you prove that when it is just as likely that an inconsiderate shopper made the mess and did not report it a minute before the slip and fall? In the pre-surveillance camera era, I would have turned this case down.

But I did not turn it down, and for one reason: surveillance cameras. I knew there was likely to be a surveillance video that would tell the story of what happened. So I wrote to the supermarket, told them I was representing the slip-and-fall victim, and demanded that they preserve the video subject to legal sanctions if they did not,

Today I received a phone call from a supermarket insurance adjuster who informed me that the video shows a customer spilling a drink 15 minutes before the slip-and-fall, and then shows a supermarket floor inspector walk right past the spill without seeing it, and then shows my client turning a corner and slipping on the spill. It is a slam dunk because the supermarket employee was clearly negligent in performing his floor inspection, which caused him to overlook the obvious spill, and my client was blameless because she could not have noticed the spill before she turned the corner.

fire.jpgThree are dead and several injured, including a baby, in this evening’s two-level house explosion in Salem, NY,

From my experience handling propane and gas injury cases, I can tell you this has all the hallmarks of a propane explosion: An extremely violent explosion completely demolishing the home, debris blown hundreds of feet out from the epicenter, insulation hanging from trees, shingles and other debris strewn everywhere, mattresses, too. Even cinder blocks are blown far from where walls once stood.

One of the survivors, a renter, said he had called his landlord about a propane leak earlier in the day. That probably means that he smelled the leak. If he did, he should not only have called his landlord, but he should also have gotten out of the house until the leak was fixed, and should have warned others to get out, too.

Today’s Syracuse Post Standard reported on a study published in the journal Pediatrics concluding that, in the U.S.A., a child dies in a portable pool every 5 days during the summer months. Ninety four percent of the victims are under 5.

Drowning is the second-leading cause of death among young children. (The first is car accidents). But why so many deaths in these cheap, shallow pools?

I can think of three:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for banana peel.jpgSurveillance cameras are a game-changer in personal injury litigation. I blogged about this before, but another recent example illustrates this point.

A client slips and falls in the vestibule entrance of a local movie house. It had been raining, and movie-goers had been dragging in the rain on their feet. The employees had forgotten to lay out the rectangular carpets to absorb the water as they were required to do by company policy. But the insurance adjuster handling the claim tells me it was all my client’s fault because she “rushed” into the vestibule. I formally requested that any surveillance videos of the incident be preserved as evidence. After I sue the movie house (because the insurance carrier refused to pay), I demand the video. It shows my client walking at a normal pace and then sliding for about a foot before finally tumbling to the floor. That floor was like an ice-skating rink, and I have it on video to prove it.

Before the era of surveillance cameras (and they are everywhere now – you would be surprised just where), my client might have lost this case — it was just her word against theirs. Now it is her word, and a surveillance video tape, against theirs.

snow roof.jpgThese winter days of snow-caked rooftops, there are lots of folks are up on roofs with chisels, hammers and shovels trying to dislodge ice and clear off snow. And for a good reason; all that snow and ice buildup can damage the roof, and can even cause the roof to collapse! That’s pretty dangerous, but being up there on the snow-and-ice capped roof, if you don’t know what you are doing, isn’t so safe either. Quick advice from this Central and Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer: Don’t do it yourself unless you know what you are doing. Hire a contractor or roofer instead.

But wait a minute. If you do hire someone to do it for you, and he falls off your roof and is injured or dies, can he, or his family, sue you?

Before I tell you the answer, let me give you some law. New York has a special law, called New York Labor Law 240, which provides that workers may bring a lawsuit against the “owner” of a building (among others) if the workers fall and are injured while engaged in either “cleaning” or “repair” work (among other things). Clearing snow and ice off a roof has been held to be a “cleaning” activity, and of course fixing a leak is a “repair” activity, so if someone falls from your roof while doing either of those things, you, the homeowner, would, at first glance, seem to be liable for the injuries sustained by the fallen worker.

explosions.jpgGas explosions have caused some of the worst injuries I have ever seen in my career as a Central New York personal injury lawyer. They are what I call a “double whammy” – they cause terrible crush injuries (because buildings collapse on the victims) and just as terrible burn injuries (because of the explosion and fire). As a Central New York gas explosion lawyer, I have been representing 9 clients whose home exploded when a propane gas leak filled it with gas. Human cost? One dead, one paralyzed from the waist down, one whose legs are crushed beyond belief, and left 7 others with serious burn and crush injuries.

So today when I read about the huge gas main explosion in Philadelphia that killed a utility worker and left three co-workers in critical condition, I felt connected to those poor workers. They will have the same kinds of injuries my clients have. And I also feel proud of them. The workers had responded to a report of gas odor, found the leak, and were attempting to repair it. They probably knew the danger, but stepped up and did their duty.

A TV news channel caught the explosion on film.

icicles.jpg This Central New York personal injury lawyer blogged a few weeks ago about building owners’ liability for falling icicles and ice. Those big pointy slabs of ice can kill people, and the building’s owner can be held liable for negligence in failing to remove them or prevent them from forming.

Now you godda love this guy from North Syracuse, who invented and patented his own do-it-yourself icicle remover. The story, as reported in the Syracuse Post Standard, is that he came across the idea of his “deicicler” while having a hard time knocking icicles off his roof. Hit the link and take a look at it. It is basically a lightweight flat shovel, but with holes in it to encircle the icicles and pull them down.

I am hoping this will be a safe way for do-it-yourselfers to remove icicles from their homes and stores. This is not only great protection against liability, but also will prevent the ice from damning up, getting under your shingles, and ruining your roof.

chairlift.jpgYou have probably heard or read about the recent tragic accident on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. A chairlift cable derailed sending several skiers plunging into the snow-covered slope below. Luckily, a generous snowfall had recently blanketed the Mountain, and that helped pad the landing. Still, several skiers are recovering in local hospitals. We wish them well.

What caused the derailment? We still don’t know. But one thing I can tell you as a New York personal injury lawyer; the Sugarloaf folks are almost certainly liable (unless the chairlift system was defectively built or designed, in which case the manufacturer would be liable). An “accident” like this does not happen without some negligence. My very educated guess is that the Sugarloaf folks failed to properly inspect or maintain the chairlift, or they allowed it to operate in unsafe weather conditions (winds of 40 miles per hour were reported).

This accident demonstrates an important principle in New York sports injury law: While those who voluntarily participates in a sport such as skiing are deemed to have “assumed the inherent risks” of the sport, and therefore can’t sue for injuries caused by those risks (see my prior blog post about this here), when the risk that caused the accident is not one of those inherent in the sport, they can sue.

icicles.jpgOne of the advantages/disadvantages of my job as a Central New York and Syracuse personal injury lawyer is that I am acutely aware of all the dangers lurking out there. The “advantage” is that I avoid some dangers most people don’t even think about. The “disadvantage” is that I worry too much! For example, when the weather is getting warmer, and I see icicles, I am careful to avoid walking under them. If I have to pass under them, I do so quickly, and I keep an eye on them.

With the weather freezing and then warming in Central New York, icicles can be dangerous. The warming weather can loosen them. They can then fall like heavy spears on your head. Icicles can weigh as much as 500 pounds. Back in 1978, a block of ice weighing several hundred pounds fell off the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, and killed a young woman who just happened to be walking along the sidewalk.

You may be wondering about liability for falling icicles. New York falling-icicle liability law is really the same as for any New York premises liability case. An owner of a property has a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, and to correct unsafe conditions he or she is or should be aware of. This includes posting reasonable warnings.

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Now that the snow’s finally here in Central New York, it’s time for this Central and Syracuse New York slip and fall lawyer to blog about New York snow removal liability. When can a property owner be held liable for failure to remove snow and ice that causes a slip and fall injury?

Here are a few ground rules. First, in New York, if it’s snowing fairly hard, a landowner cannot be held liable for failing to remove snow until “a reasonable time after” it stops snowing. This is known as the “storm in progress doctrine”. It is meant to give property owners a kind of grace period while the snow is still falling. New York law deems it unreasonable to require landowners to remove every flake as it hits ground! The doctrine is not limited to blizzard conditions, but also applies in less severe, but still inclement, winter weather.

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