Premises Liability - Slip and Fall on Defective Stairs
The 39 year old previously healthy plaintiff suffered severe personal injury while walking down an interior stairway in a six-family home when a pine board stair tread snapped, causing him to fall on his back and right arm and then bounce down to bottom of the stairway. The accident occurred as a result of the dangerous and defective condition of the stair tread at the time of the accident. The subject tread was a ¾ inch pine board which did not have any rubber tread or other covering. All of the other treads on this stairway were oak and had rubber tread covering.
Pre-trial discovery revealed that approximately two months before the plaintiff’s accident, a previous tenant in the building had dropped a piece of furniture on the stair causing the tread to split. Following that mishap, the defendant or defendant's employees replaced the broken step with a piece of pine board which was not suitable for the staircase. The plaintiff contended that the pine board step violated all applicable safety standards and was inadequate for use on these stairs.
Following plaintiff’s accident, defendant “repaired” the broken step by nailing four scrap strips of strapping beneath the fractured lip of the step in order to secure the step. Plaintiff obtained photographs of the broken step and the pathetic repair job.
Unbelievably, defendant testified that he never observed a broken or repaired step at the premises. Plaintiff presented photographs of both conditions. In addition, plaintiff obtained testimony from two witnesses who were tenants in the building regarding the conditions described above. Plaintiff also had evidence regarding numerous code violations and the criminal complaint filed against defendant for failing to correct code violations at the premises.
Plaintiff was prepared to prove through independent witness testimony as well as expert testimony that defendant negligently violated the state building code and created an unreasonably dangerous condition when he performed his ”do-it-yourself” sloppy repair job on the subject stairway. The shabby repair made this stairway more dangerous than leaving the stairway with a broken step. At least with a broken step, visitors would use greater caution on the compromised step.
As a result of the accident, plaintiff suffered traumatic L4 –5 disc herniation L5; S1 disc protrusion; right palm puncture; severe tendon injury of the fourth finger of the right hand and sprains of the lumbosacral joint, left shoulder and right wrist. Plaintiff had two surgeries on his right arm and hand, including tenolysis of the right fourth digit and carpal tunnel release. Plaintiff’s medical expenses were in the amount of $33,736.92.
At the time of the accident, plaintiff worked as an independent contractor installing carpeting, tile and linoleum. He earned on average approximately $110,00.00 per year. His earnings were significantly reduced to approximately $600.00 a week. Therefore, plaintiff suffered a past loss of earnings in the amount of approximately $280,000.00.
The case settled following two days of mediation.