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Sidewalk Trip and Fall Lawsuits: A Look at the De Minimis Rule

Jan 31, 2020 - Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Tuscaloosa by

If you have tripped and injured yourself while walking on a sidewalk in Alabama, the law may entitle you to bring a claim against the landowner for damages.  It’s worth noting, however, that such claims may be difficult to prove, as certain defenses, such as the application of the de minimis rule, can prevent a lawsuit entirely. Still it is not impossible to succeed, particularly when you have the help of a skilled Tuscaloosa trip and fall attorney.

Understanding these barriers to recovery is necessary for an effective lawsuit.  Let’s take a closer look.

What is the De Minimis Rule?

The de minimis rule works to prevent a lawsuit against a public and private defendant in which some central aspect of the case does not meet some minimum level of significant necessary to justify the action.  For example, if you cut your finger in a bike accident, that might be considered an “injury” in technical terms, but the severity of the injury is so minimal that a court is unlikely to deem the claim actionable.  De minimis is therefore best conceptualized as a barrier to an actionable claim.

The De Minimis Rule and Sidewalks

In Alabama and other jurisdictions, the de minimis rule applies to sidewalks, and more specifically, to trip and fall cases involving said sidewalks.  Though the relevant landowners (i.e., municipalities, private landowners, etc.) have a responsibility to maintain sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition, the law does not impose a duty to keep sidewalks in a perfect condition at all times.  Slight defects may not therefore be actionable under the law.

Determining whether a given defect is slight or severe enough to justify a lawsuit is an evaluation that depends on the particular circumstances of the case.  There is no bright-line rule to guide plaintiffs.

For example, if you trip and fall on a sidewalk due to a jutting sidewalk slab, then you’ll have to examine the degree of jutting.  If the slab was jutting half-an-inch from the adjacent slab, that might be considered slight enough for the de minimis rule to apply and preclude an actionable claim.  On the other hand, if the jutting slab was poking out over two inches from the adjacent slab, that might be considered significant enough to overcome the de minimis rule.

Contact a Tuscaloosa Trip and Fall Attorney to Request a Free Consultation

Here at Cross & Smith, our team of personal injury attorneys has decades of experience working with those who have been involved in slip and fall and trip and fall accidents, including those that are based around a sidewalk defect.  We are well-acquainted with the unique challenges facing plaintiffs in these lawsuits, and how best to navigate them so as to achieve a favorable result.

Ready to speak to a member of our litigation team?

Call us at 205-391-0618 or send us an intake form through our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Tuscaloosa trip and fall attorney at Cross & Smith today.  We work on contingency — as such, our clients only pay once we have successfully obtained compensation on their behalf.

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