Philadelphia Fall Accidents – Who is Liable?
Page last reviewed and updated: July 1, 2020
When customers are hurt in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident at a public business, like a restaurant, museum or bar, what are their legal rights? Pennsylvania law allows injured patrons to seek financial compensation for injuries, medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering by filing lawsuits against a negligent business owner.
Philadelphia restaurants, bars and other businesses open to the public have a duty to protect their patrons from dangerous conditions or harm. However, just because they have the duty does not mean that they are responsible for every patron’s accident and injury at the establishment.
Consider the following scenario. A family goes to dinner at a popular restaurant in Center City, Philadelphia. The mom gets up to go to the bathroom. On her way to the bathroom, she slips and falls. She is seriously injured. She slipped on a puddle of water that formed as a result of a leak from the ceiling. In such a situation, can the restaurant be held liable? It depends on the circumstances.
Restaurant is Responsible – Is Negligent
The restaurant would be held responsible for the patron’s slip and fall accident if the restaurant knew about the water leaking from the ceiling for a sufficient period of time prior to the accident and did nothing to correct the situation.
For instance, the week before, an employee noticed that the ceiling was leaking and a puddle was forming on the floor. The employee told the manager who said he will take a look and take care of it. However, the manager was dealing with another matter and forgot to check the leak.
Because the manager knew about the dangerous condition for a significant period of time, i.e., one whole week, and that customers would be walking by the area to get to the bathroom, he had a duty to reasonably protect the patrons from the dangerous condition, i.e., water on the floor.
The manager should have called someone to fix the leak. If the leak could not have been fixed immediately, the manager should have put a bucket underneath the water leak to catch the water, and also put yellow warning cones around the bucket to warn customers that the floor may be slippery.
Restaurant is Not Responsible – Not Negligent
The restaurant would not be liable if it didn’t know about the leak. For instance, the leak only started a few minutes before the patron’s fall, and thus, the restaurant would not have known about it. If the restaurant didn’t know about the leak, it could not fix it or warn patrons of the leak. Therefore, even though the patron fell and was seriously injured, the restaurant would not be liable for the patron’s fall.
In this situation, however, the patron may have a right to sue a third party. For instance, if the restaurant had a contractor fix the leak a couple days before the patron’s fall, and the contractor negligently fixed the leak causing it to leak again, the patron may have a case against the contractor. The contractor may be negligent if he used the wrong material to fix the leak or simply performed a poor job.
Therefore, even though the restaurant is not responsible for the customer’s slip and fall accident, the contractor is responsible for the accident.
If the restaurant or the contractor is liable, the customer may recover damages associated with her accident and injuries. She may recover for medical treatment costs related to the fall. Another damage she can recover is work loss. If the mother could not work for 2 weeks due to her injuries, then those 2 weeks of lost wages are recoverable. Out of pocket expenses are also recoverable. For instance, if the customer needed to hire someone to clean the house or needed to take a taxi to medical appointments, these types of out of pocket expenses may be recoverable as well.
The above three types of damages can be easily documented through bills, pay stubs and receipts. The last type of damage claim, i.e., pain and suffering damages, cannot be calculated by bills or receipts. Everyone’s pain and suffering is different. Factors such as age, marital status, work occupation, and life style are all considered when calculating pain and suffering damages.
An elderly person and an individual in their 20s with the same injury may differ significantly in their pain and suffering. For instance, as a result of a wrist fracture from a slip and fall accident, both individuals need surgery. The patron in her 20s recovers quickly and only needs physical therapy for 2 months. On the other hand, the elderly person does not recover quickly after the surgery. She suffers complications resulting in a second surgery. The elderly individual has suffered more than the individual in her 20s, even though they suffered the same type of injury.
Help After a Philadelphia Slip and Fall or Trip and Fall Accident
If you or a loved one was injured in a slip, trip or fall accident at a public establishment in Philadelphia, call Namerow Law to schedule a FREE consultation. 215.985.0777