Court Reverses Plaintiff’s Jury Verdict, Finding Landowner Had No Knowledge of Defective Hand Rail

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a man who fell down a spiral staircase as he was helping a friend move furniture out of the apartment that his friend rented from the defendant landlord. The court ultimately affirmed the trial judge’s ruling to overturn the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff because insufficient evidence was presented to hold the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Spiral StaircaseThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was helping his friend, who rented an apartment from the defendant, move some furniture. The only way to the apartment was up a spiral staircase. There was a small landing outside the apartment door, where residents would be able to stand as they unlocked the door.

As the plaintiff and his friend attempted to move a large piece of furniture out of the apartment, they first placed it on the landing. The plaintiff then repositioned himself a few steps below the landing, and he leaned against the handrail to keep his balance. As he leaned on the hand rail, he heard a crack, and the rail gave way. The plaintiff fell over the railing and through the center of the spiral staircase. The plaintiff then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the landlord, alleging that the landlord failed to keep the common areas of the apartment complex in a reasonably safe condition.

The only witness to testify at the trial was the plaintiff. The plaintiff testified that he did not notice anything wrong with the railing prior to his fall; however, he did not test the railing by shaking or rattling it. He acknowledged that the railing was not broken prior to his placing his weight against it.

The landlord moved for summary judgment, claiming that he was unaware of the dangerous condition and that he could not be held liable unless the plaintiff could show there was some evidence he knew about the railing needing repair. He also argued that there was no evidence presented that there was anything wrong with the railing, only that it broke when the plaintiff leaned on it.

The court agreed with the defendant and affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in the landlord’s favor. The court concluded that “there is not a scintilla of evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that defendant knew or should have known of any alleged defect or dangerous condition.”

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Landowners generally have a duty to maintain safe premises and to remedy any dangerous conditions on their property that they know to exist. The skilled injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience working with victims and helping them seek the compensation they deserve. Call 410-654-3600 today to schedule your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Finds in Favor of Landlord in Deck Collapse Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 11, 2017

Court Finds that Recreational Use Statute Protected City in Lawsuit Stemming from Baseball Game Injury, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 28, 2017

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