When a real estate agent is showing a house to a prospective buyer, it’s a time of great anticipation. Will they like the master bathroom? Is there enough privacy in the yard? No one is thinking about what happens if that buyer slips on a loose stair tread, falls, and requires knee surgery and months of painful rehabilitation.
In a situation like that, the prospective buyer has now become a victim, and they are likely to seek compensation for negligence to cover medical bills, time missed from work, and their pain and suffering. Who can be held liable? The answer depends on the particular facts involved.
The Buyer is an Invitee
When someone is invited onto a property for the potential financial benefit of the property owner, that person is legally considered an invitee. This is true even if the invitation is not extended to them personally. Someone attending an open house is just as “invited” as a buyer with a scheduled showing.
Florida law requires the property to be kept in a reasonably safe condition for invitees. In addition, the invitee must be warned or protected against any dangers the owner knows or should know about. Failure to meet either of these obligations can make the owner liable under the theory of premises liability. But what about the real estate agent?
The Real Estate Agent Could Potentially Be Held Responsible
Certain circumstances could make the real estate agent liable for the slip and fall injuries as well. If the agent created the hazard by adding or moving furniture or taking other actions to prepare for the showing, then that agent might bear sole liability for the fall. If the injured person can prove that the agent knew or should have known about a dangerous condition and that they failed to take appropriate steps to warn potential buyers as they were showing them through the home, then the agent might share responsibility with the owner.
However, if the buyer signed a listing agreement, the terms of that contract could potentially allow the agent to escape liability. Most agreements include a “hold harmless” clause specifying that the agent will not be held liable for personal injuries. If the agent’s own negligence was the cause of the fall, however, the hold harmless clause may not apply or could be held unconscionable.
Casting a Wide Net
In reality, the injured buyer or their insurance company might try to seek compensation from virtually anyone connected with the viewing including the owner of the property, the agent, any staff who assisted, and others viewing the property. The owner or real estate agent might bring an additional claim against a third party, such as another potential buyer who kicked a rug out of place or moved furniture around to get a better look at the floor.
The bottom line is that slip and fall cases are very fact-specific, and it is critical to gather as much evidence as possible to prove what happened and why.
Zweben Law Group Helps with Recovery After Slip and Fall Accidents
Injuries suffered in a slip and fall incident often turn out to be much more severe than people realize at the time. If you were hurt in a fall, be sure to get a thorough medical exam and return to the doctor if new symptoms appear later.
When injuries require extensive treatment, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney to learn your options for seeking compensation. The team at Zweben Law Group would be happy to assist. Call us for a free case evaluation.