Know Your Slip-and-Fall Liability

Are you liable if someone falls and gets hurt outside your real estate office?

April 1, 2010

The walkway outside your real estate office is slippery from rain, ice, or snow. Are you liable if someone falls and gets hurt there? This type of risk is known as a "premises liability" and can put you on shaky legal ground if you’re not careful. 

Here’s what you need to know to keep your footing—but remember that liability varies by state and you should consult an attorney familiar with your state’s laws. 


You're at highest risk if . . .


. . . you or someone in your office is the cause of a hazardous condition. If one of your sales associates leaves coffee on the tile floor in your office reception area after spilling it, causing someone to slip, then you’re at risk of liability. 

. . . you or someone in your office knows about a hazardous condition. If you know about a loose electrical wire that a consumer is at risk of touching when she sits down at the receptionist’s desk, then you’re at high risk. 

. . . there’s a condition you don’t know about but should. The heavy box teetering on the high shelf near a desk is a clear hazard that a consumer can expect you to be aware of and correct. If you don’t, then you’re at risk of liability if the box falls. 


You're at less risk if . . .


. . . an accident occurs before you have a reasonable chance to address a hazardous condition. If your area is hit with heavy rain and someone slips on your tile walkway shortly after it starts, your liability risk is mitigated because you can’t be expected to put sand down in an unreasonably short time frame. 

. . . a condition in your office is something you can reasonably expect a customer to avoid. If a customer trips on a large toolbox belonging to a worker making repairs to a window and a visitor can reasonably be expected to see the toolbox, your liability is mitigated because everyone has an obligation to watch where they’re going. 

. . . a customer in an unauthorized area is exposed to a hazardous condition. If a customer gets hurt after entering your supply room without permission, your liability is mitigated because the customer wasn’t supposed to be there. To be safe, be sure associates know customers aren’t allowed in such areas.

Adapted from "Slip and Fall Accidents: Proving Fault," Nolo Legal Encyclopedia, and "Slip and Fall Accidents and Injuries,"