Last Update: 3/17/22
A tenant can sue a landlord for a slip and fall as long the tenant can prove the landlord was negligent and the negligence was the cause of the tenant’s personal injury (broken or fractured bone, scarring, or another serious bodily injury). See case examples below.
Many apartment complex slip and fall accidents occur as a result of the landlord’s negligence. Often times, it is the landlord’s failure to maintain their property and address conditions that they knew about or should have known about that leads to these accidents occurring. Unfortunately, when an accident does happen, the tenant victim, or their guests, find themselves having to deal with the stress of recovery which comes from the pain of the accident as well as from the mounting medical bills and lost wages and having to deal with the landlord and his or her insurance company.
However, not every slip and fall injury results in a valid claim for damages. A tenant must be able to show that the landlord failed to use reasonable care in order to collect compensation for his or her damages.
In other words, in order to successfully recover compensation from the landlord, the tenant has to build a “prima facie” case of negligence.
Proving Fault And Negligence
Simply stated, a tenant must produce facts, admissible evidence, to show how the fall was caused by the landlord’s negligence in maintaining the building. That’s because a landlord/owner has a legal duty to provide the tenant with a safe place to live. If a breach of that duty was the cause of the tenant’s injuries from a slip and fall then the tenant can recover his/her damages.
There are different types of evidence that a victim can use to prove the landlord is negligent or at fault for a slip and fall on its premises, including:
- Witness statements
- Investigating past incidents at the property including the past histories of other tenant slip and falls
- Police reports
- Surveillance cameras
- Knowledge – the landlord knew or should have known about the dangerous condition
Landlord’s Duty To Maintain the Property Under The Law
Florida’s premises liability law requires landlords to maintain their rental property and protect their tenants and their guests from harm. This law imposes duties on the landlord including:
- Abiding by any applicable housing codes (including state, city and/or county codes).
- If a landlord learns of a dangerous condition, or if a dangerous condition that the landlord should know about occurs, then the landlord has a duty to fix the issue in a reasonable amount of time.
- Landlords are responsible for the repair and maintenance for matters that include leaky roofs, broken or missing handrails, adding anti-slip materials to steps and pool areas, properly affixing carpets, cracked sidewalk, parking lot wheel stops and speed bumps and addressing other common slip and fall hazards.
Case Examples of a Tenant Suing a Landlord For a Slip and Fall
Tenant Falls Down a Back Stairway That She Knew Was Defective
GONET v. EVANS – 66 So.2d 53 (1953)
Annette Gonet lived in a building owned and managed by defendant Evans. Gonet was living with her sister for four months on the second floor of the apartment building which was leased on a month-to-month basis.
The apartment building had a front and a back stairway and the back stairway was outside of the building and exposed to the weather. Gonet primarily utilized the back stairway which was constructed to have steps and landings with each landing having a rubber mat.
The rubber mat in question was not properly fastened to the landing which was known to Gonet and the stairway was dirty at times with grease spots due to the carelessness of other tenants, which Gonet also knew.
On the morning of September 23, 1951, after it had rained the previous night Gonet fell and sustained injuries due to the mat slipping from beneath feet. There was no evidence of any defect in the stairway, nor was there any evidence of any defective condition of the rubber mat. The record contains no indication that grease spots or foreign substances on the stairway contributed in any way to Gonet’s injury.
At the conclusion of her lawsuit against the landlord for her slip and fall, the court held the landlord was not liable because Gonet knew “that the stairway was wet and that the rubber mat was not fastened to the landing, appellant chose to descend by way of the back stairway in its then condition instead of using the front stairway which was available to her. It does not appear to us, therefore, that her injury was proximately caused by the negligence of the appellee.”
Tenant Was Negligent For Using A Stairwell That Was Poorly Maintained
Roberts v. Burkette – 245 So.2d 134 (1971)
85-year-old Maude Roberts lived in an apartment building for approximately two to three years with a stairway that was not properly maintained. This included a handrail that ended before the last step with a slippery ornament that could not be easily grasped.
When she sued her landlord for the slip and fall, Maude argued that the stairway was negligently maintained and a nuisance and the landowner was guilty of negligence in violating the South Florida Building Code, the court found that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law because there were no facts in dispute and the plaintiff knew about the dangerous condition of the stairway.
Can The Tenant Be At Fault?
Apartment falls are commonplace and result in all sorts of injuries, from minor sprains, to serious fractures to hands, wrists and hips, and even head trauma or death. When a slip and fall accident happens in a rental property, one of the main issues is who was at-fault and does the tenant share in the fault.
Not all slip and fall accidents result in 100% liability for the landlord. There are situations where the tenant is partially responsible for the accident. In Florida, there is a legal doctrine known as comparative negligence. This doctrine apportions fault among the landlord and tenant. Thus, a tenant’s compensation will be impacted by the amount of negligence caused by the tenant. For example, if the tenant is determined to be 35 percent responsible, the tenant’s damage award will be reduced by that amount. Meaning, the tenant will receive 65 percent of the amount awarded by the jury.
In a rental home, some dangers that may result in a fall where the landlord or owner could be legally bound to pay damages include:
- Floors with heavy amounts of water or slippery substance on them
- Debris on sidewalks
- Improperly designed sidewalks and ramps and curb cuts
- Stairs and Stairwells – broken, inadequate or missing lighting
- Handrails – missing or broken
- Violations of the Building Code
- Improper or missing markings on steps, stairs and in parking lots (unpainted wheel stops – or speed bumps)
- Parking Lot debris
- Pool Area debris and slippery surfaces
- Fallen tree limbs
- Hidden debris or conditions in un-mowed grass
- Items impacting ingress and egress
- Oil leaked from vehicles onto the driveway or garage floor
- Wet leaves accumulating on the sidewalk
Quick Tip: The Average Slip and Fall Settlement is $30,000.00.
Does Renter’s Insurance Cover Slip and Falls?
Even though most tenants get rental insurance to cover theft or burglary, some policies may cover injuries caused by a landlord’s negligence, including slip and falls in areas where the landlord is obligated to maintain the premises.
What Damages Can A Victim Recover – Pain And Suffering?
If a tenant is hurt in a slip and fall at their apartment complex and the injuries are significant, then the tenant should be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include compensation for items such as:
- Physical therapy bills
- Hospital bills
- Rental of medical equipment
- Lost wages – past and future
- Impairment of Earning Capacity
Non-economic damages include:
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Loss of relations with a spouse
- Pain and suffering
- Severe Mental anguish
Statute of Limitations – Time Limit To File a Claim or Lawsuit
In Florida, slip and fall claims have to be filed within a certain time before the claim is barred. The Florida Legislature has set these deadlines in specific statutes, called statutes of limitations.
According to Florida Statute 95.11(3)(a), any action founded on negligence must be filed within 4 years from the date of the slip and fall.
If a victim does not file a lawsuit before that deadline, then the lawsuit will not be permitted to proceed. Meaning, a judge has the power to dismiss the lawsuit by granting a motion for summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
What Should You Do?
In Florida, when a tenant has a personal injury claim against a landlord for a slip and fall at their apartment complex or other leased premises, the landlord isn’t the only party who can be held responsible. There are other parties, like a maintenance company, landscaper, cleaning service, delivery service, who can be held legally responsible to pay for your damages. The tenant, after seeking medical attention, should immediately report the accident, evaluate the facts, and then review their lease agreement to determine which parties can be held responsible for his/her damages. Additionally, the tenant should make a diary of the event, including how the injury has impacted his or her daily life, and gather as much evidence as possible to support his or her claim. All of these steps are important to preserving a tenant’s rights and making sure the tenant has the best chance of recovering maximum compensation for his or her injuries.
Finally, a good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced Florida lawyer to learn about your rights, including how most insurance companies respond to these claims. Most lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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