Pennsylvania & New Jersey Injury Lawyers: Fall Accidents on Steps & Stairs

Falls on Steps & Stairs in Pennsylvania & New Jersey Stores and Shopping Centers – Serious Injuries

Falls on steps or stairs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey stores or shopping centers often result in major injuries. Falling down a flight of stairs, even if the stairway contains a few steps, can result in fractures, head injuries and spinal injuries. The same thing goes for a fall involving a single step or similar elevation. Someone who stumbles on a single step on a sidewalk may be propelled forward and break their wrist trying to break their fall. The individual may also suffer a brain injury when their head strikes nearby pavement or concrete. Falls on nearby sidewalks or asphalt also result in similar injuries.

Proof of Negligence in a Step or Stair Accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey

In any fall accident case, including those involving steps or stairs, the burden is on the plaintiff (injured party) to prove that the property owner or property management company was negligent.

It is well-settled in Pennsylvania that store owners owe the highest legal duty under the law to customers/shoppers, referred to as “invitees,” or people invited to the premises (i.e., store, shopping mall, etc.). New Jersey law is very similar.

Related: Pennsylvania & New Jersey Fall Accident Law Library

With respect to invitees, PA courts have held that property owners (or possessors of land) can be held liable when each of the following are proven:

  1. the owner has knowledge of a condition (or could discover it by exercising reasonable caution or care) and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to customers or patrons;
  2. the owner should expect that customers or patrons will not discover or realize the dangerous condition or will otherwise fail to protect themselves against it; and
  3. the owner has failed to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.

Here’s a breakdown of what this means.

First, the property owner must have actually known about the condition, prior to the accident at issue. Did the owner receive prior reports about the problem? If the owner didn’t have actual knowledge, is it fair to say that the owner should have known about it? In other words, do the circumstances show that the owner should have figured out that the condition existed? Did employees walk over the defect on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Where was the condition in relation to the store fronts, parking lot entrance, etc.?

Related: Pennsylvania Store Fall Accident Lawsuit Info – PA Juries Award $6 Million in 2 Fall Accident Lawsuits in 2017

For example, a customer is shopping at a clothing store that has a flight of stairs. One of the steps on the stairway is bowed, and there is a wide crack in the tread. The crack has resulted in an uneven area on the specific tread, which is located near the top of the stairway. The customer is walking up the stairs and the heel of her shoe gets caught in the cracked tread. She stumbles down the entire flight of stairs and sustains serious injuries. In the months prior to the accident, store employees had marked the cracked tread on internal maintenance reports, and two prior incident reports indicate that patrons had previously tripped on the cracked step. Here, there is sufficient evidence that the store had actual, prior knowledge of the defect.

Second, the circumstances must show that the dangerous condition was not readily apparent to customers or patrons. Was the dangerous condition hidden or obstructed from view? Is there some reason why a customer might not have seen the defect?

For example, a customer drives into a shopping center, parks his car and starts walking into one of the stores in the center. On the main walkway, there is a single step. The step is the same color as the rest of the walkway and is not otherwise designated. The customer stumbles on the step and falls forward, suffering injuries. Because the single step is the same color as the rest of the walkway and isn’t designated in any manner, the property owner should have realized that customers might not see it.

Third, the owner must have failed to take reasonable steps to fix the dangerous condition or warn customers about it. Using the example above, the owner didn’t do anything to remove the step or warn others about it. A simple coat of bright yellow paint to mark the step or a warning sign would have probably been sufficient.

Pennsylvania & New Jersey Injury Law Firm – Step & Stair Fall Accidents

Our personal injury lawyers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey handle fall accidents that happen on steps and stairs. Our lawyers have over 50 years of combined legal experience and have recovered nearly $200 million for our clients. Clients accepted throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Contact us for a free consultation.

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