Question: Can I sue if I slipped on water left on stairs of a Condo Association; broke my foot and hurt my back and now have 3 herniated disks?

Answer: It is impossible to say without knowing more about when, where and what caused you to fall. Cause is a very important consideration in a slip and fall case and strict liability does not apply to what the law refers to as premise liability. Strict liability would make the owner strictly liable for the injuries meaning fault would have little if anything to do with it. But that’s not the law and fault is a major stumbling block for this type of case. They will look at the facts to determine from every different angle whether or not you were at fault (negligent) for causing your own injury.

1.    Did you look closely enough at where you were going or were you inattentive and ignoring warning signs that the floor was wet and slippery?

2.    What type of shoes were you wearing?

3.    Were you distracted and failed to see what they will claim should have been obvious to you?

4.    Where you carrying anything and paying more attention to it rather than where you were walking?

5.    Were you in a hurry and not taking enough time to walk safely?

6.    Where did the water come from and did the condo association, even owe you a duty?

7.    Are you sure the liquid was water and not a drink someone had just spilled? 

8.    How now will we prove there was any water and that you just aren't or weren't clumsy?

9.    Are there any witnesses who are independent?

10.  What was the source of the liquid that made the surface slick? Was there bad weather that night? Was there a storm? How often does it rain and when it does is this water predictable? Again, I can't assume it even was water that caused you to slip and fall.

Don’t assume just because you believe the condo association controlled the area where you fell, it has to be proven. Duty to the person who eventually becomes injured is very important. These are not easy cases to prove and many are lost. What most people don’t get are the issues of duty and fault. These are big issues and difficult to digest. Most potential clients and clients would like to go right to the issue of damages without regard to duty and then fault.

How do you know the condo association had a duty to control the area where you fell? I can tell just by the fact you’ve not been precise about where you fell that you aren’t concerned with the issue of duty. You are assuming the condo association has the duty to maintain the exact place where you fell and I as a lawyer certainly am not able to make that assumption. We would need the condominium rules that explain whose duty it is/was to keep that area safe and properly maintained. Have you reviewed the condominium rules? Get a copy from whoever it was you were visiting and then you’ll need to provide a copy to the lawyer who is considering taking your case. Save the damage issues but get organized by collecting the medical records and bills and providing another copy to the lawyer.

Last let’s get organized and take some really clear photographs of the area where you fell. The exact location is not just important it is critical to proving a premise liability case. And then begin to think about the “defect”, the water. Where did it come from and how long was it present? Those are two important issues because source and sufficient time to correct aren’t just passing ideas they are critical facts to pin down proximate cause, which is another issue you’ll need to prove.

As I’ve said these are not easy cases to prove so strap on your seat belt because proving this premise liability case is going to be a bumpy ride.

Note from Mr. Lombardi: Today's video assigned to this question is about a different type of case, but the principles involved are helpful to understanding the investigational urgency of a slip-fall case and why hiring a lawyer is important to any case. Listen to it and pay attention to what I'm saying about gathering and preserving evidence.

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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