By Gregory H. Haubrich
Attorney at Law
A premises liability case is a claim that a hidden danger or defect in a business or home injured a person on the premises. The key word is “hidden”; if a danger is “open and obvious” the injured person cannot recover from the landowner.
Premises defects include such things as slippery floors, defective stair cases, weak balcony railings, tripping hazards such as large cracks or obstacles in walkways, and spilled substances in grocery stores.
In order to recover, the injured person must prove that the landowner knew, should have known of, or actually created the dangerous condition.
These are very fact specific cases. However, many very serious injuries occur due to premises defects and falls. I have handled two cases I can remember in which people died as a result of falls. I read some years ago that every year 13,000 people die in the United States as a result of tripping or slipping falls.
These days many stores have security cameras which record events throughout the store. One of the first things we do when we are retained to represent someone injured in a store is to send both a Letter of Representation and a letter requesting the potential defendant to save, store, and not alter any evidence pertaining to the injury, including video surveillance of the site.
Oklahoma follows a concept known as “spoliation of evidence”. If a party has evidence which may be pertinent to a case, but permits it to be lost or destroyed, the other party may be permitted to request the jury to draw an “adverse inference.”
In other words, you would have produced the evidence if it had been favorable to you; since you don’t have it, you must not have liked what it showed. That is often why surveillance tapes of incidents conveniently “disappear” unless the plaintiff has a lawyer who knows how to get that critical evidence.
If you’ve been injured on another party’s property due to negligence, contact me today for a free initial consultation.