What is the Legal Basis for a Slip and Fall Claim in Vermont?
Here is a summary of the reasons why a store owner has a legal responsibility to maintain safe sidewalks and parking areas in Vermont. This is a typical introduction I included in the demand letter I submit to the store owner’s insurance company.
On (date of incident) my client arrived as a passenger in a vehicle at the store in East Overshoe, Vermont. The driver stayed in the vehicle and my client stepped out of the vehicle with the intention of entering the store. She had on her usual winter boots, which provide plenty of traction. The sidewalk was extremely icy and her foot gave way as she took her first step on the sidewalk, causing her to fall and injuring her hip, low back, shoulder and wrist.
Surfaces which are otherwise safe become potentially dangerous when covered with ice. When a walking surface such as a sidewalk is icy, the amount of available traction provided to pedestrian customers like my clients is substantially reduced and slipping can occur. Obviously, this condition is well-recognized by property owners, pedestrians and others. It is the recognition of this phenomenon that prompted the public policy in which property owners are charged with the duty to maintain surface areas in a reasonably safe condition.
A slippery sidewalk as well as a slippery parking area is a type of hazard that is readily identifiable if reasonable inspections had been performed by a tortfeasor. Regular inspections of the sidewalk and parking lot area would have discovered the existence of an extremely hazardous surface area and the lack of a hazard-free means of ingress and egress to the store. Simply put, the sidewalk was not properly maintained and was unsafe for customers at the store and the store owner and manager should have expected customers were going to walk to and from their vehicles to the store.