Premises Liability, Slip and Fall Accidents and The Elderly

When someone slips and falls in the movies, it’s funny. In real life, that same fall could shatter an older person’s hip causing an excruciatingly painful injury. If they were unlucky, they would never again be able to live in their own home. Instead, they would be confined to a nursing home for the rest of her life, suffering pain with even the smallest move.

Falls and the Elderly
Falls cause one in five visits to the emergency room. Injuries resulting from a fall are the primary reason that people miss work. For those over 55, the majority of occupational injuries were slips and falls. One out of three of those over 65 will fall this year.

What does this mean to property owners? It means that they should be very careful concerning flooring, railings, uneven side walks or walkways or other potential dangers. Flooring, in particular, is an avoidable hazard for those who own buildings open to the public.

A Cautionary Tale
There was a case that involved a 50-year-old woman who slipped and fell in a supermarket on a rainy day. As a result of the accident, she needed knee surgeries. The supermarket argued that they had done their best to protect shoppers by posting signs warning that the floors were slippery. They also placed carpets at the entrances to the store. The woman ultimately settled the case for several hundred thousand dollars. If the woman had been 80 rather than 50, she could well have been permanently disabled or died as a result of the fall.

Why was the store found liable? The flooring was ordinary vinyl composition tiles, polished and buffed to look clean and attractive. An expert hired by the injured woman asserted that the highly polished vinyl flooring was inherently unsafe, especially on a rainy day. Safer flooring was readily available, but the store had chosen this flooring. The jury agreed with that argument.
This illustrates the high duty that a property owner owes to others under premises liability laws. Wise property owners inspect their property carefully from the viewpoint of an elderly person, but many do not.

Anyone who has been injured and believes that they are due compensation under Hawaii’s premises liability laws should contact Yoshida & Associates in Honolulu. Attorney Yoshida has been vigorously defending the rights of accident victims for over 30 years. Contact him at

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