Contributory Negligence in Washington, D.C. Slip and Fall Lawsuits

Washington, D.C. slip and fall lawsuits are based on the traditional theory of negligence and fault. Thus, when a pedestrian slips and falls due to an issue with a walking area or path, the property or landowner may be liable for the pedestrian’s injuries. Most frequently, slip and fall lawsuits stem from injuries that occur on slippery surfaces, uneven walkways, unsecured rugs, or liquid spills. However, Washington, D.C. slip and fall lawsuits may also arise from injuries sustained from short steps, inappropriate lighting, and unstable handrails. For some, the damages that result from these dangerous conditions may not be significant; however, others suffer severe injuries after premises liability accidents.

Under Washington, D.C. premises liability law, property owners or occupiers must take specific steps to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. The standard of care that a property owner owes their visitor depends on the type of person who is visiting the property. In business situations, visitors are often considered “invitees.” These are individuals who enter a property for the benefit of the property owner. Property owners must use reasonable and ordinary care to correct and warn their visitors of any dangerous conditions. Although, Washington, D.C. law requires property owners to provide safe environments for customers and passersby; the law also requires invitees to engage in safe behavior.

Washington, D.C. law allows defendants to use contributory negligence as a defense to the claims against them. Washington, D.C.  is one of only four states that follows the theory of pure contributory negligence. Pure contributory negligence bars plaintiffs from recovery if the courts find that they possessed any fault for the accident. This means that if the plaintiff were even 1% at fault, their claim would be barred entirely. There are ways to overcome a contributory negligence defense, but they require a thorough understanding of premises liability laws.

Recently, a state appeals court issued a ruling on a common slip and fall situation seen in many Washington, D.C. premises liability cases. In that case, the claimant suffered injuries after tripping on an unusual single step at the entrance of a restaurant. The claimant stated that he walked up the stairs on the way into the restaurant but did not notice anything odd about the step. As he was leaving the restaurant, he tripped on the last single step and suffered injuries. He testified that the dangerous step was unmarked and the restaurant did not have a warning sign posted or any handrails. Additionally, expert witnesses testified that the last step was inherently dangerous.

The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit based on contributory negligence theories. They argued that the claimant should have seen the step because it was discernable and that he did not take reasonable steps to ensure his safety. The appeals court denied the motion for summary judgment and found that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding the claimant’s knowledge of the dangerous condition.

Have You Suffered Injuries after a Washington, D.C. Slip and Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries after slipping and falling as a result of a dangerous condition on another’s property, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling complex Washington, D.C. slip and fall lawsuits. Our attorneys understand the barriers that Washington, D.C. plaintiffs face when pursuing a claim for compensation, and work hard to overcome these challenges. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact the law firm at 800-654-1949 to schedule your free initial consultation.

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