What Makes Slip and Fall Cases in DC Unique?

In some jurisdictions, as a DC slip and fall lawyer can explain, there are more categories for why the injured party was on the property that have to be looked at. In DC there really are two categories:

  • Those who are lawfully on the premises
  • Those who are trespassers

Also, in circumstances where someone is injured on public spaces controlled by the District of Columbia, when there is snow and ice on the streets for example, the law provides that the District of Columbia has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the public streets and sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition. It imposes upon the District a duty to act reasonably and clear away hazardous snow and ice conditions from public areas. However, the DC government is not liable for injuries caused by snow and ice conditions during or immediately after the snow has fallen or the ice has formed, because in those instances the government has not had the opportunity to correct any dangerous conditions. Similarly, if there’s no defect in the street itself, the government is not liable for injuries that occurred just because snow and ice are naturally slippery.

But in general, the District of Columbia has a duty to use ordinary care and maintaining the public sidewalks for pedestrian use and the streets for vehicular use. Again, the District is not required to guarantee the safety of people who use its streets or sidewalks. So from that standpoint, DC government is not responsible for every accident that may happen on the public space due to imperfect street or sidewalk conditions, because the law does not require the District to keep its public spaces in perfect condition.

Filing a Slip and Fall Case Against the DC Government

In a case against the DC government, you have to show that the District violated its duty, and that a dangerous condition existed that the District had notice of in time to have corrected it. And that condition caused the plaintiff’s injury.

In a situation involving the District, you have to show that the notice existed either in the form of actual knowledge, or due to the fact that the condition existed for so long, the district should have known of it. That’s specific to DC and DC government, as far as what its responsibility is in maintaining the public area.

Responsibility of The Landlord

There are other circumstances where landlords are held responsible for the common areas of leased premises. Sometimes when a landlord leases apartments or units to individuals, there are “common areas” that are for the tenant’s use but under the owner’s responsibility.

The landlord has a duty to maintain these common areas in a reasonably safe condition, so that they can safely be used by the tenants and other people lawfully on the premises. That includes anyone in the building or on the premises either at the request of or by the invitation of a tenant.

Again, the landlord does not have a duty to guarantee the safety of anyone using the common areas. The law doesn’t require a landlord to undertake an unreasonable burden in order to maintain the premises, so the injured party has to prove that the defendant property owner or the landlord, or an employee of the landlord or property owner, caused an unsafe or dangerous condition and, by using ordinary care, should have known of the condition in time to eliminate the risk of harm.

Liability For Criminal Conduct

There are also situations where a landlord can be held liable for the criminal conduct of third parties. In those circumstances, typically what you see is a landlord of a multiple unit apartment building failing to provide protection against foreseeable criminal acts of third parties. In determining whether the landlord is negligent under this type of scenario, what’s looked at is: the likelihood that criminal acts causing harm could occur; the seriousness of the harm likely to result from such criminal acts; and the burden or cost to the landlord required to eliminate or reduce the risk of such harm.

Again, it doesn’t require the landlord to guarantee the safety of persons on the property from the criminal acts of other, but it does establish a duty in situations where it is known that crimes are taking place in the area, and those crimes present a danger to those on the premises. These situations impose a duty on the landlord to protect tenants and those lawfully on the premises from the criminal conduct of third parties.