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Can I prove a store is liable for my injuries?

You missed the last step leading up to the door of a local business and fell down, breaking your wrist. You got hurt on a business owner's property, where you had reasonable expectations that you would be safe conducting your business. Now, you believe that the business should cover your medical bills and other related expenses and damages.

But the business owner tells a different story and denies responsibility. According to him or her, you missed the uppermost step, stumbled and fell because you were chatting on your cellphone and not paying attention to where you were walking. He claims the fault lies with you.

In their ruling reversing a lower court's decision against the plaintiff in a premises liability case, the New York Court of Appeals wrote the following:

"Whenever the general public is invited into stores, office buildings and other places of public assembly, the owner is charged with the duty of providing the public with a reasonably safe premises, including a safe means of ingress and egress. In general, his duty is to use reasonable care at all times and in all circumstances."

That standard still applies. In our hypothetical case where you stumbled on the top step and fractured your wrist in an attempt to break your fall, you may have been spared that injury if the business owner had installed a handrail on the stairs.

While there's no dispute that you were engaged in a cellphone conversation, nothing about talking equates with tripping over a step lacking a railing to steady yourself. It's impossible to intuit how a court would rule in such a case, but it's also likely that your attorney could prevail in a premises liability lawsuit filed in the New York civil courts.

Source: FindLaw, "Premises Liability: Who Is Responsible?," accessed Jan. 26, 2018

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