Can I sue my uncle’s landlord for injuries suffered on the premises that led to my uncle’s death?

My uncle was 63 years old. For years he lived in a upper flat 2 bedroom, 1 bath with kitchen. The stairs going up to the unit were rotten, loose and wobbly. He fell off the

top of the porch also made of wood and dry rotted. He had a bag of groceries on his doormat like he set them down or dropped it when he fell. I found my uncle in a pool of blood on his hands and knees trying to get up making as much sound as he could. He had a knot on his head the size of a grapefruit. I called the paramedics who picked him up and took him to the hospital where he stayed in intensive care. He never made it back home; he ended up passing away about a month and a half after his admittance to the hospital. How do I handle this now?

Asked on February 24, 2016 under Personal Injury, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As a nephew, you *may* be able to sue for wrongful death--it depends in part on the situation (are you an heir?) and also the status of his estate. However, since what you describe does present the possibility of liability, since based on what you write, you uncle may well have died due to faulty or lack of maintenance (the wobbly, rotten stairs), it would be worth discussing the case with a personal injury attorney, to see if you could bring a lawsuit (or, if not you directly, if the estate's executive or administrator could).
Note that the fact that the stairs were rotten does  not automatically mean that the landlord was liable--it just presents the possibility of liability. To be liable:
1) the landlord must have been aware, or reasonably, under the facts or circumstances, should have been aware of the problem--which is likely in a situation like this, but not a given; and
2) you uncle must have fallen due to the rotten stairs (there must be causality) and not for some other reason, like a mini-stroke, or he had a bad knee or ankle that gave out under him.


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