Tenant Wins Negligence Case Against Landlord: Her Attorney Explains Why

Landlord Negligence Leads to Tenant Injury, $350,000 Pay Out

A landlord has agreed to pay $350,000 to a tenant who was injured when she fell down the stairs.

According to the woman’s attorney, residents of the New York City apartment complex complained to the landlord about construction debris left in the way after a repair. The woman was on her way to work when she slipped on something greasy, and fell several steps with her foot bent backwards.

The woman had to undergo surgery for her broken ankle, and required months of physical therapy. The permanent damage to her ankle made it impossible for her to return to her job.

Personal injury attorney Carol Schlitt, who was named one of the top personal injury attorneys in New York by New York Super Lawyers magazine, negotiated the settlement for the tenant. Schlitt posted the outcome on her blog, and also shares insights about the case that could help other landlords avoid similar situations.

Schlitt explains that for a tenant to prove a case of negligence for slip and fall, they have to prove that the landlord contributed to the fall, and that the fall caused injury.

A crucial fact in this case came from testimony that a number of other tenants had complained about the condition of the stairway. Additionally, another tenant took a video of the stairwell immediately after the woman’s fall and before the ambulance arrived. Schlitt attributes the technology of camera and video phones, like iPhones, for greatly aiding her prosecution of personal injury cases.

Her objective as a tenant’s attorney is to do more than win a case for a client, but to maximize the recovery.

In this case, Schlitt spent considerable time compiling and analyzing evidence regarding the injury and other losses suffered after the fall, and worked on ways to present that information in a persuasive way. She also located and interviewed witnesses as soon after the event as possible and compiled and reviewed medical records. That information was then crafted into a comprehensive settlement package and presented to the insurance company.

When the insurance company declined to settle, Schlitt immediately turned up the heat by filing a lawsuit and rigorously preparing for trial. She began scheduling depositions.

This prompted renewed interest in a settlement. The landlord’s side suggested mediation, and that process yielded a settlement. The woman was happy with the amount offered in settlement and the fact that, due to the early resolution of the case, she would receive her judgment about two years before the estimated time for trial. The landlord was able to resolve the case without incurring the additional expenses needed to mount a legal defense.

Stairwell injuries are a common source of negligence claims against landlords. An effective system for supervising contractors performing repairs, and performing routine inspections of the rental property can help curb these claims.

Responding to tenant complaints quickly is also paramount in keeping tenants happy – and safe.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gregory Houle December 14, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Interesting article. I’m curious why the insurance company declined to settle the matter. Is there any additional information as to why that was?

Marv December 28, 2010 at 11:56 am

Gregory the Insurance Company finally did decide to settle ( landlord’s side) after Ms. Schlitt filed a lawsuit and vigorously started preparing for trial. From my experience with Insurance Companies, they will attempt to mitigate the amount of any payout by whatever means they can. Sometimes those means are stalling, denying liability, downplaying injuries etc. Insurance Companies have Independent Adjusters who will sometimes investigate the Claim, some Adjusters are trained investigators and will compile a true evaluation of what happened and assess liability appropriately. In many instances this is not the case however. Insurance Companies are huge conglomerates who are in the business of making money, they do that by taking in more money than what they payout, thus you have situations where you have to fight for what is right. Insurance Companies on a whole have a rate of more than 15% fraudulent claims. Yes that’s right…more than 15% of all insurance claims are fraudulent. The Insurance Company that I worked for as a Fraud Investigator admitted that 15%of all claims were fraudulent. In actual fact it was more like 30%. Many insurance claims are exaggerated. An exaggerated claim is a false statement, thereby making it fraudulent. The Insurance Companies cannot effectively investigate all claims. So what do they do? They make the going tough when you do have a high dollar claim such as the one noted above. It is a fact that many reported B & E’s are fraudulent, either they never occurred or…the items reported stolen are exaggerated and false. These claims are usually paid because they are less than ten thousand dollars. They are not investigated by the Insurance Company because of the cost of an investigation either by an Independent Adjuster or Special Investigation Unit. The Police will only record what they are told, they may investigate the B & E, they almost never investigate whether what was reported stolen is factual.

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