However, these cases are difficult to bring in Utah. Some people believe that all that is necessary for someone to have a lawsuit is for an injury to occur on someone else’s premises. That is not true! Utah law explains that a victim of a slip-and-fall event can recover only with one of three options:
First, the business, homeowner or landlord has a permanently unsafe condition due to having chosen a mode of operation that foreseeably could result in an inherently dangerous condition, or if the premises violate some aspect of the building code that directly led to the unsafe condition.
Second, if there is a temporary unsafe condition created by a business, one of its employees, a homeowner or landlord. Even if the creators did not “know” of the unsafe condition.
Third, the temporary unsafe condition was created by a third party but the business owner, landlord or a homeowner has actual notice of the unsafe condition and has had a reasonable time to fix or correct the condition but has failed to do so. See Jex v. JRA, Inc. dba Hickory Kist Deli, 196 P.3d 576 (Utah 2008).
The most common fact pattern we hear or see is where a customer in a store slips and falls on water or something wet or slippery in the store and injures himself. This might be a good set of facts if the store owner knew of the wet spot and failed to clean it up, or the wet spot was caused or created by one of its own employees. However, if that is not the case, then we probably would decline the opportunity to represent the injured person. It is necessary for us to be able to prove knowledge or notice of the condition or participation by an employee or agent of the store or business before there is a case. The mere occurrence of someone slipping and falling does not automatically allow a claim to be made.
Another common fact pattern is where someone slips on snow or ice on the sidewalk, steps or walkway leading to a home or business establishment. Even if the business owner or homeowner knew of the snow and ice out there, if they can demonstrate that they took “reasonable” precautions to eliminate the snow or ice, there generally is no cause of action. Even if there is some question about this fact, Utah juries are still often very forgiving of the homeowner, business or landlord because, after all, we are located in the Rocky Mountains and snow and ice are a fact of life here. Juries are usually not quick to lay blame at the checkbook of the homeowner or business owner in this kind of case. I have actually had jurors say things like, “Hey, this is Utah. It happens!”
We are currently handling slip and fall cases under a variety of circumstances, and we have been successful with those kinds of cases in the past. However, we are cautious about which kinds of such cases we take. If you have a question about a slip-and-fall case or would like to know whether a condition is something that could lead to a lawsuit, give us a call. We’ll be glad to talk to you about it.
The title “slip-and-fall” is simply a generic reference to what could be labeled “premises liability.” Premises liability takes all forms from drownings in swimming pools to legs being broken due to sticky asphalt crack seal being left in a parking lot. We encourage all homeowners and business owners to take precautions, be careful, and think “safety!” at every turn. We also encourage everyone to be cautious, watch where you’re going, and watch your step everywhere you go. Most of the time we all go on auto pilot when we walk through the aisles of a store forgetting that the very nature of the displays are designed to keep our eyes off of the floor and on the goods being sold. So be careful when you shop and as you go about your daily affairs.
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