I just slipped and fell in the icy, un-sanded parking lot at work, and smashed my knee. The parking lot is owned by my Landlord.
Should I sue?
Not this time.
Well, lots of reasons.
First of all, I have a boo boo. My knee is sore and swollen now, but it will heal quickly and won’t cost me anything. (Except it turns out I can’t vacuum or iron at ALL!)
Even if I did sue my Landlord, I’d lose – because my Landlord didn’t do anything wrong. We’d just had a major snowstorm. At the time of the fall, there was heavy equipment in the parking lot in midst of snow-removal operations. I expect salting and sanding were next on the list once the snow was removed. The standard is not ‘perfection’ – a perfectly clear, salted sanded parking lot at all times – but rather, the test is whether or not the Landlord was acting reasonably.
In this case, he’d hired a crew to perform winter maintenance in a timely manner, and they were performing winter maintenance. It wasn’t done yet – but that’s not anyone’s fault. (Did I mention I was wearing improper footwear at the time? If I’d had on appropriate winter boots, I wouldn’t have fallen. All things considered, the fall was my own fault. But my fashion boots were so cute with that skirt!)
Also, the potential Defendant is my Landlord, with whom I have an excellent relationship at the moment. I expect that suing him might, at the very least, take me off his Christmas card list. We all seem to have an inherent aversion to being handed a Statement of Claim that reads “A legal proceeding has been commenced against you…” If I was badly hurt, and if it was my Landlord’s fault, then I would proceed (hopefully he isn’t reading this). If I was badly hurt, my Landlord would understand that he is protected by insurance, and would want to see me properly compensated for my injury. (There. If he reads this he’ll know I think he’s a stand-up guy).
I make the point to highlight the fact that in addition to the legal factors to consider (like the nature of the injury/damages, and whether or not liability can be proven against someone else), sometimes we have to weigh non-legal factors in deciding whether or not to proceed with litigation – such as the risk to an important relationship. Or the fact that we really don’t have the time to participate in a 4-year lawsuit. Or that we have a strong aversion to the idea of being a witness in court (not everyone finds litigation fun, apparently?).
So, my boo boo and I won’t sue. THIS time…
If you do happen to slip and fall this winter, these are some of the factors to consider in deciding whether or not to proceed with litigation. Give me a shout and I can help you work through the pros and cons.