On the morning of February 24th, 2010, a man was performing plumbing work on a construction site. When he was exiting the site, he became the victim of an accident – a slip and fall on ice that had formed at the entrance.
He was taken to the emergency room where it was discovered that he fractured the femur in his left leg. He then underwent a surgery where doctors performed an open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) of the bone and placed a rod in his leg. Unfortunately, despite this corrective procedure, the fracture failed to heal properly and he required a second surgery eight months later. He also claims that has a result of his fall he will need a complete knee replacement of his left knee.
The plumber filed a lawsuit against both the property owner and the subcontractor that had been hired to retrofit the building’s fire suppression sprinkler system. He alleged that the subcontractor had failed to fix a leak, or had improperly drained water and left it to pool and freeze. He also alleged that because he and a co-worker had noticed the water the day before, the property owner was negligent for failing to take steps to remove water which then turned into ice overnight.
Prior to going to trial, the property owner and plaintiff agreed to a settlement of $250,000. However, the case still went to court because the plaintiff and subcontractor were unable to negotiate a settlement.
The plaintiff had several witnesses testify on his behalf. The paramedic who responded to the scene confirmed that he too had slipped while attempting to attend to the plaintiff. His co-worker also testified that he had seen the puddle that would form into ice the day before. An expert witness was called upon, who reported that a leaky valve was the only possible source of the water, and that the subcontractor had violated not just one, but several Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction safety regulations. Building records also showed that the sprinkler system had not been drained of water for sometime, despite the fact that repairs were being made.
The defendant argued that the sprinkler system the valve was a part of had been drained prior to being worked on and that the ice must have formed from natural cases. They also maintained that the ice was an obvious hazard which the plaintiff was aware of, and so that he was comparatively at fault for the accident.
At the end of the trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1,221,282 but reduced the amount because they did find the plaintiff 20% at fault.
Comparative Negligence In New York
This case is an excellent example of why victims should not hesitate to contact a personal injury attorney, even if they believe they were partially at fault for their accident.
In the state of New York, comparative negligence allows those who have been injured in an accident to pursue legal action, even if their actions contributed to the accident. This means that if the plaintiff is found to also be at fault, the court will determine what percentage of the accident they are liable for. Then, if they are awarded damages, that percentage is taken out of the amount awarded.
For example, if your case goes to trial and you are awarded $10,000, but the court determines that you are 30% at fault, the amount you will receive is $7,000.
The Responsibility of Property Owners
Common causes of slip and fall accidents are weather related conditions, uneven and broken sidewalks, loose flooring, spilled liquids, broken steps, and defective handrails on staircases.
Property owners may be held liable for any injuries that these issues cause if the court determines that they knew, or should have known about the problem and did nothing to fix it. In many instances, other parties may also be held liable if their actions changed the property in a such a way that a hazard was created.