Falls on Public Property

AuthorCharles E. Turnbow
Falls on Public Property
§1700 Introduction
Picture: Smooth Steel Plate on Sidewalk
§1710 Burden of Proof
Case 1: Irregular Sidewalk
§1720 Procedural Filing Requirements
Case 1: Proper Defendant
Case 2: Lack of Inspection
§1730 Falls on Public Sidewalks
§1731 Trivial Defects
Picture: Uneven Walkway
Picture: Large Tree Root
§1732 Establishing Notice
§1733 Abutting Property Owners
Picture: Leaking Sprinkler
§1734 Liquids and Debris
Picture: Debris on Steps and Sidewalk
Case 1: Sandy Sidewalk
Case 2: Sand in Remote Areas
§1735 Grates and Manholes
Case 1: Missing Manhole Cover
Picture: Corroded Manhole Cover
§1736 Protrusions and Obstructions on Public Sidewalks
Case 1: Broken Parking Sign
Picture: Metal Stub
Case 2: Guywire Anchor in Sidewalk
Picture: Anchor and Crosswalk
§1740 Airport Facilities
§1741 Parking Structures
Case 1: Fall on Oil Spill
Case 2: Crack in Parking Lot
Case 3: Defective Expansion Joint in Airport Parking Structure
§1742 Lobbies and Concourses
Case 1: Broken Expansion Joint
Case 2: Slip at Main Airport Entrance
§1743 Jetways, Loading Stairs and Ramps
Case 1: Fall in Jetway
§1744 Public Access Areas
§1750 Bus Stations
§1751 Ticket Lobbies
Case 1: Fall on Luggage
Case 2: Spilled Soft Drink
§1752 Waiting Rooms
§1760 Railroad Stations
§1761 Passenger Loading Platforms
Case 1: Fall From Train Platform
§1762 Passenger Stairway
Case 1: Geometric Pattern on Steps
§1770 Bus and Train Stops
Smooth Steel Plate on Sidewalk
This emergency exit hatch cover is located on the sidewalk at a major intersection in Los Angeles. The doors of the cover
are made of diamond plate steel. However, the ends are smooth polished steel. The sidewalk slopes from the building
toward the curb at an angle of nearly 7%. When the smooth steel surface is wet the coefficient of friction is 0.31 to rub-
ber [see §§410 et seq.]. A study done of similar covers for this transit system showed that the other covers had a textured
surface and provided a reasonable level of traction. In this case, the plaintiff turned the corner at the intersection and took
about three steps before encountering the steel plate. She slipped on the wet plate and was injured.
§1700 Introduction
Hundreds of thousands of fall accidents occur on public
property each year, most commonly on public sidewalks and
parking lots. Sidewalk falls frequently occur when pedestri-
ans trip on broken or uneven concrete due to tree roots or
other natural causes. The issue of notice is often difficult to
prove. On the other hand, the duty of the defendant city or
agency is usually expressly defined by statute and the burden
of proof is often easier to meet than in other civil cases.
When slip and fall accidents occur on public property, the
matter is handled somewhat differently than a general civil
negligence case. Special procedural conditions must be met
in such cases. Most jurisdictions have a governmental tort
liability law that modifies the plaintiff’s burden of proof. In
some states, the concept of trivial defect shields the govern-
mental agency from liability. In others there is a require-
ment that the governmental agency have actual notice of
the defect and failed to correct the dangerous condition in
a reasonable length of time. Because there is often a cap on
the amount of damages that can be awarded to the injured
party, a careful evaluation of the case liability and damages
should be conducted to determine the merits of the case.

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