Defenses in Slip and Fall Cases

Premises Liability | February 27, 2023

Individuals can sustain severe injuries as a result of a slip and fall incident on another person’s property. In some cases, victims may be able to file a claim against the at-fault party to recover compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. However, there are various defenses that an at-fault party and their legal team could use to avoid paying compensation.

Defenses in Slip and Fall Cases

Open and Obvious Danger

If a person brings up an open and obvious danger defense, this means that the defendant will argue that any hazardous conditions present were open and obvious to anyone. Under this type of defense, the defendant will claim that the plaintiff (the injury victim) should have seen or known about the danger and taken steps to avoid it. Some individuals refer to this as the “common sense” doctrine.

For example, an open and obvious danger defense could be used if a person slips and falls and a puddle of water that was so obvious that any reasonable person would have seen it and walked around.

Lack of Notice

One major part of a premises liability claim, under which slip and fall cases operate, is showing that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard. Property owners could raise the lack of notice defense if they had no knowledge of the hazard and, therefore, could not have taken any steps to remedy the issue. For example, if a grocery store employee did not know about a spill on aisle seven, but an individual slipped and fell on the spill, it is likely that the lack of notice defense will be used.

Reasonable Care

A defendant could use a reasonable care defense by saying that they took the steps necessary to adequately maintain the property in a safe condition. Usually, this defense will be raised in conjunction with the defendant saying that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by some sort of unforeseeable event. It is not uncommon for defendants to use the reasonable care defense along with a lack of notice defense to say that the hazard was unforeseeable and that they had otherwise taken reasonable care to prevent injuries.

Contributory/Comparative Negligence

When a contributory or comparative negligence defense is raised, this does not necessarily mean that the defendant is trying to escape total liability. In these situations, the attempt is to shift some of the liability to the plaintiff. This is done in order to limit how much compensation the plaintiff receives. California is not a contributory negligence state. This state follows a pure comparative negligence law, which means plaintiffs can recover compensation regardless of how much fault they had for the incident. However, defendants pay less compensation if the plaintiff does assume some of the liability.

Assumption of Risk

Defendants could raise an assumption of risk defense by saying that the plaintiff assumed any risk of injury by knowingly and voluntarily entering a hazardous situation. For example, this type of defense will often be used for extreme sports, such as skydiving, bungee jumping, or whitewater rafting. Often, a defendant will come to this defense with a waiver signed by or agreed upon by the plaintiff.

If you or a loved one was injured in a slip and fall accident in California, an experienced Sacramento premises liability lawyer can help during a free consultation.