I probably have this conversation once a month, and while I have documented it in my super sweet Video Library (https://www.jeffreyhowardlaw.com/video-library-nc-attorney/), it’s worth writing about again. And again.
Injury claims in NC can be tricky. After all, we have Contributory Negligence (https://www.jeffreyhowardlaw.com/contributory-negligence/), one of 4 states that still has that nonsense on the books (Yay for backwards NC!). So any time of injury claim based on negligence can be subject to this defense, even when it’s seemingly inappropriate. Slip and fall claims, or Premises Liability claims as we refer to them generally, can be extra tricky because of how the law has been shaped over time in this field.
For maybe the millionth time in my career, I’ll tell you that just because you’re hurt on someone’s property doesn’t mean that the owner of that property is responsible for your injury. That’s just not how it works here. you have to show that their negligence lead to your injury. Specifically, you have to show that by the exercise of reasonable care, they should have discovered the dangerous condition that caused your injury AND should have (at the minimum) warned you about it or taken action to address it. “Reasonable care” can vary depending on the situation. What’s reasonable for a 75 employee mega-store might not be reasonable for a picture framing shop.
Let’s step back to contributory negligence, what it means, and how it interacts with what I’ve described above. Contributory negligence (“contrib” in the business) is the doctrine that if you’re even 1% at fault in causing your accident/injury, you can’t recover anything from the person that’s 99% at fault. The idea is that you have a duty to exercise “reasonable care” (there’s that phrase again) to look out for your own safety.
Here’s where contrib and premises liability theory clash to the great detriment of plaintiffs in NC. If you can successfully show that there was a dangerous condition that caused your injury, and it was so bloody obvious and dangerous that the owners should have seen it and done something about it, you’re probably helping them to prove that it was so bloody obvious that YOU should have seen it and exercised “reasonable care” to keep yourself away from it. It is a kind of Catch-22.
Don’t get me wrong. It is possible to have a very viable slip and fall or premises liability claim in North Carolina. You just have to have the right facts. It helps if you have an attorney to guide you through this, so call me at 919-929-2992.