If a friend fell at my house after he got out of my pool but it is unclear if the stairs were wet before he was on them, what is my liability?

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If a friend fell at my house after he got out of my pool but it is unclear if the stairs were wet before he was on them, what is my liability?

He was definitely wet. What am I liable for? I have homeowner’s insurance. What happened was that he was wet, walked up my stairs to get a drink and on his way back down the stairs to the pool, slipped and fell down the stairs.

Asked on May 26, 2015 under Personal Injury, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The issue, in terms of liability, is were the stairs wet other than due to him (e.g. due to other guests/swimmers; due to spiling something on them; etc.) and, if so, is that what made him fall? Or did he trip without it being anyone's fault, or because he himself got the stairs wet? Only if you were at fault by allowing the stairs to be wet, and hence dangerous, might you be liable; if he was the one who got them wet, he would have been at fault, not you, and you would not be liable.

Even if you were liable, how badly was he hurt? What were his medical costs? In a slip-and-fall lawsuit, someone can only recover compensation for his actual medical costs, actual lost wages (if he can't work), actual other out-of-pocket costs due to the accident and, if impaired or disabled for weeks or more, some amount for "pain and suffering." (But unless the injury/impairment last months or more and if fairly significant, the pain and suffering award would likely not be large.) So even if you were liable--e.g. you'd allowed  the stairs to remain wet and slippery--if we more or less "walked it off," maybe with one doctor or emergency room visit, the most he could sue you for is the out-of-pocket (not paid by his health insurance) costs.

Finally, if you have homeowners, if he does sue or threaten to sue, turn it over your insurer, which should defend you.


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