Recently, a man who tripped and fell on a West Virginia sidewalk settled his lawsuit against the city over his injury. While the terms of the settlement were undisclosed, the case illustrates some important points about the legal theory of premises liability.
In his complaint, the man said he was walking on a sidewalk maintained by the City of Danville in September 2009 when he tripped and fell, sustaining a broken wrist, two black eyes and other injuries. He claimed that his fall was caused by a raised portion of the sidewalk that created a safety hazard.
The theory of premises liability holds property owners or occupiers legally responsible for foreseeable injuries to guests from dangerous property conditions that they know about. For example, when a customer slips and falls on a puddle in the middle of a grocery store, the store owners may be held responsible for the customer's injuries if they knew, or should have known, about the puddle and did nothing to remove the hazard.
In the past, federal, state and local governments were immune to lawsuits based on premises liability, but that has changed in almost all jurisdictions. However, premises liability lawsuits can look very different depending upon whether the property owner or occupier is a private party, the federal government, the State of West Virginia or a local government.
Premises liability cases do sometimes go to trial, but it not uncommon for them to be settled out of court. Unlike trials, the terms of an out-of-court settlement are often kept confidential by the parties.
West Virginia residents who have slipped and fallen or otherwise suffered injury due to a safety hazard on someone else's property may be stuck with medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. They may want to seek out help understanding the legal options that may be able to compensate them for these losses.
Source: The West Virginia Record, "Lawsuit over Danville sidewalk settled," Kyla Asbury, July 3, 2013