Avoid Slips and Falls
by Dr. E. M. Tarbash
Property managers and owners who think that slips and falls at their properties is a non-issue should think twice. Lawsuits related to slip and fall accidents have risen by more than 300% since 1980 according to OSHA. The National Safety Council claims that slips and falls were responsible for 41,870 general industry accidents in 2003. That is an astronomical statistic. It is also costing property managers and owners a small fortune.
A classic example of such a claim is highlighted by Doe v. LaSalle Partners, N.J., Middlesex County Super. Ct. Doe, 29, was leaving her office building through the main lobby when she slipped and fell on the lobby floor. Apparently the snowstorm from days past had left water, salt, and sand on the lobby floor. Doe suffered a herniated disk which required a microdiscectomy. Her medical expenses totaled about $35,000.
Doe sued the building owner and maintenance company, claiming they had not: 1) cleaned the floor properly from the lingering water and debris, 2) placed a floor mat down to provide traction or 3) posted a sign warning of conditions. Although the Defendants pleaded that the Plaintiff had not been watching where she was going, the parties settled the case for $485,000 plus the satisfaction of a $115,000 workers' compensation lien.
The National Safety Council estimates medical costs and compensation for cases like this at $70 billion a year. Anything that can be done to show proper maintenance by the building owner and manager is a plus should ever an accident occur.
Clearly, a property owner or manager is not liable simply because a person slips and falls on the property. The Plaintiff must prove that management was negligent and, in some capacity, was at fault. Management can be at fault if they knew or should have known about conditions that would make floors potentially unsafe. In large part, management has a duty to keep their property safe and secure.
Rocky Frank, president of American Floor Mats, stresses the importance of the correct use of floor mats, especially during inclement weather. “Using the right combination of exterior mats as a first line of defense, interior walk-off mats and entrance mats for further moisture and debris removal, and runner mats down lengths of walking paths is one clear step you can take to keep your property clean and safe.”
In addition to floor mats, American Floor Mats has developed quite an impressive solution to keeping wet umbrellas from dripping water all over lobby floors. The classy looking Wet Umbrella Bag Stand is put out in entrances during rainy days, and as guests walk in with their wet umbrellas, they rip off one of the disposable (and recyclable) plastic bags and slip in their wet umbrella. This saves floors from constant water drippage from wet umbrellas that frequently accumulates during rainy days.