Court Finds Landlord Is Not Responsible for Injuries Caused by Broken Handrail in Common Area of Apartment Building

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a man who was injured while he was helping a friend move a large piece of furniture. According to the facts as presented in the court’s opinion, the plaintiff slipped and fell down a spiral staircase after he placed his weight on a handrail. As the plaintiff placed his weight on the handrail, the railing snapped, causing the plaintiff to lose his balance and fall down through the center of the spiral staircase.

Spiral StaircaseThe plaintiff brought a premises liability lawsuit against his friend’s landlord, claiming that the landlord had failed to keep the railing – which was in a common area of the apartment building – in a reasonably safe condition.

The Evidence Presented at Trial

The plaintiff was the only witness to testify at trial. The plaintiff explained that he was trying to move a large piece of furniture down the stairs, but the landing was very small, so he had to position himself partially down the stairs. In doing so, it was necessary to place “just a little bit of pressure” on the rail.

The plaintiff also testified that he had used the handrail earlier that day, but only by placing light weight on it with his hand as he climbed or descended the stairs. He admitted that he did not visually inspect the railing, and it did not seem to be broken before he placed his weight on it.

The Jury’s Decision

After a trial was held, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that he had suffered $65,000 in damages. The jury also found that the plaintiff was 35% at fault, leaving the defendant landlord responsible for approximately $42,000 in damages owed to the plaintiff. The defendant asked the trial court to enter judgment in his favor, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to allow the jury to legally find in the plaintiff’s favor. The trial court agreed and reversed the jury’s finding. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial judge’s reversal of the jury’s verdict. The court explained that “there is not a scintilla of evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that defendant knew or should have known of any alleged defect or dangerous condition.” The court focused its reasoning on the fact that the railing was not broken prior to the plaintiff placing his weight on it, and there were no allegations that the railing was otherwise defective.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Premises liability cases are each different, and the level of proof that is needed to succeed depends on many factors, including the relationship between the landowner and you. To learn more about how you may be able to receive compensation for the injuries you sustained, call a personal injury attorney at Charles B. Roberts & Associates to set up a free consultation to discuss your case. We can be reached at 703-491-7070, or you can submit your contact information through our online form, and we will reach out to you in a timely manner.

See More Blog Posts:

The Importance of Medical Experts in Virginia Medical Malpractice Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, March 27, 2017.

Federal Appellate Court Determines Government Is Immune from Liability for Bicycle Accident Occurring in National Forest, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, April 10, 2017.