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Slip and Fall on Poorly Painted Stairs?

May 9, 2015

A woman falls down a flight of stairs at her apartment complex. She brings a claim against the apartment complex and took the position that the stairs were dangerous because the paint on stairs was slippery. The injured person also argued that the apartment complex did not warn her of the hazard.

A lawsuit was filed and the maintenance folks from the apartment complex testified that the paint had anti-skid texture added. They provided a receipt showing that 10 gallons of paint were purchased and 4 packets of anti-skid texture were purchased.

The apartment complex filed a summary judgment motion asking the court to dismiss the injured person’s case because the injured person could not show that the apartment complex was negligent because the paint had anti-skid texture added. The injured person’s lawyer brought forth evidence in opposition to the motion showing that the manufacturer required 1 packet of anti-skid material for each gallon of pain. The injured person argued the apartment complex did not add enough anti-skid material because they didn’t follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. The trial judge agreed with the apartment complex and dismissed the case.

The injured person filed an appeal. The appellate court reviewed the law regarding slip and fall cases (premises liability). In premises liability cases the property owner owes two duties of care: (1) the duty to warn of a dangerous condition; and (2) the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court regarding the duty to warn but reversed the dismissal regarding the dangerous condition. The court said that the evidence showing that each gallon of paint required one packet of anti-skid texture was enough evidence to require a jury to make the decision about whether the apartment complex was negligent.

Lessons Learned

We all learn lessons from appellate court decisions ruling on slip and fall cases. These cases are very difficult for the injured person. The important lesson to be learned is that after a slip and fall, an injured person has to gather as much evidence about the fall and the condition of the property as quickly as possible. This must include photos of the area in question, names and contact information of any witnesses, and a request to the property owner to preserve all evidence regarding repair and upkeep of the property, and any video surveillance of the incident.