We receive many calls from people injured after a fall in Alabama. Many people believe (wrongly) that a local business is always responsible for any fall-related injury on its premises. This belief is wrong. In truth, we turndown almost all potential slip and fall cases. Alabama slip and fall cases are very difficult to win.
Alabama Supreme Court Issues New Decision Which Discusses Problems With Slip And Fall Cases
In January 2020, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a decision discussing one of the biggest defenses in slip and fall cases — The Open And Obvious Defense. You can read my prior blog article discussing this case at:
In that earlier case, an elderly lady fell in a pothole while walking across the parking lot a local Dollar Tree store. The injured lady testified she did not see the pothole because she was focused on her shopping cart. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed that people exercising reasonable care in a parking lot may be watching for other hazards such as shopping carts, cars or people, and may not notice a pothole. I wrote a blog post about the case because it is so unusual for our court to find a slip and fall case it likes!
A few months later, in June, and we have a new open and obvious decision. The case is Daniels v. Wiley, et al.. Two slip and fall cases discussing the open and obvious doctrine in a six month period? 2020 really has been a crazy year! This time, the case went AGAINST the injured person.
In the Daniels case, a person slipped and fell in mud on the sidewalk at her apartment complex. The apartment complex argued the mud was “open and obvious” and argued Daniels had other routes she could have taken. The Alabama Supreme Court noted that a condition is “open and obvious” when it is (1) either known by the injured person; or, (2) should have been observed by the injured person in the exercise of reasonable care. Here, the injured lady testified she knew and appreciated the presence of the slick mud on the sidewalk. And, she testified that she avoided the danger in the past by hopping over the mud. Our court ruled against her claim.
Here you have two cases with two different results. But, the discussion is similar. So many slip and fall cases turn on the small facts related to knowledge of the hazard, appreciation of the danger, and focus of attention. What did you know? Where were you looking? What did you see?
Think You Have An Alabama Slip And Fall Case? What Does It Take To Win?
Think you have a slip and fall case? Most callers think they do. We turn most of these cases down. So do most lawyers who are experienced at fighting them. They can be very difficult claims.
Want to win your case? Be ready to prove all these things:
- A Dangerous Condition Caused Your Fall
In Alabama, the business owner is not responsible simply because you fell in his store. No, the business owner only has liability in certain specific situations. Generally,
The owner of a premises owes a duty to business invitees to use reasonable care and diligence to keep the premises in a safe condition, or, if the premises are in a dangerous condition, to give sufficient warning so that, by the use of ordinary care, the danger can be avoided.
- The Property Owner KNEW Or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN Of The Dangerous Condition
What does this mean? In short, the business owner either created the dangerous condition OR should have known about it. Think about a grocery store. A customer spills something in the floor. Moments later, another customer slips and falls on the spilled substance. The store owner did not create the slippery condition. A customer created it. How can you say the store should have known of the slippery substance when it was only on the floor for a few quick moments? This issue often turns on specific facts.
- Your Conduct Must NOT Contribute To Causing The Fall
Were you distracted by your cell phone? Were you walking in the dark? The defense will ask tons of questions to try and show you were partially at fault in causing the fall. Alabama follows a doctrine called Contributory Negligence which means if you were even 1% at fault, you cannot recover. Like the case discussed in this post, many Alabama decisions also bar claims based on the “open and obvious” doctrine.
Can You Win A Slip And Fall Case?
These are tough cases. Very tough cases! If you suffered a personal injury in an Alabama slip and fall, the burdens are high. We turn down the vast majority of these cases.
Is winning impossible? No. In one of my very first trials (many years ago), my former law partner and I won a slip and fall case nobody thought was winnable. Maybe that was why two very young lawyers had the case! We beat a large big box nationwide retail store and even won punitive damages because of some really bad conduct by the store. Our case is certainly not the norm for these claims!
What should you do if hurt badly? Consult a skilled lawyer. By that, I mean a lawyer who has actually tried one of these cases. Understand the cases are very difficult. They are won or lost on specific details. Be prepared to provide specific details.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm handles serious personal injury cases across Alabama. We focus all our time, study and effort on this area of the law. If you have questions, let us know. We are happy to help with answers. Our consultations are always free and confidential.