North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Government Immunity Doctrine in Slip and Fall Case Involving a Residential Property

Slip and fall accidents can happen virtually anywhere, leaving you with painful injuries and crushing medical expenses. In general, North Carolina law holds a property owner responsible for any injuries that happen as a result of his or her negligent care of the property. But when the property owner is a government entity, a different set of rules applies regarding whether or not the government will be held liable. This is known as the sovereign or governmental immunity doctrine, and it is critical to know whether it will be a factor in your slip and fall case. At Burton Law Firm, our lead attorney handles North Carolina slip and fall cases and is prepared to assist you with evaluating your potential right to compensation.

In a recent North Carolina appellate court opinion, the Supreme Court was ultimately asked to decide whether a city was immune from liability for a slip and fall injury that the plaintiff suffered. The defendant leased the property where the plaintiff lived to a variety of businesses and groups. In the lease documents, it was specifically stated that each defendant bore the responsibility for maintaining the exterior areas of the property. It also stated that the government had the right to visit and inspect the property without notice.

The plaintiff was hurt when she was exiting the building through one of the rear doorways while carrying a large bundle of items. She alleged that she lost her balance and fell down steps on a portion of the stairway that she described as having eroded. As a result of the fall, she broke her hip and suffered other injuries. The plaintiff named the city as a defendant and alleged that it had waived its ability to assert the government immunity doctrine when it purchased liability insurance for the property. She also alleged that the government could not claim immunity because it was engaged in a proprietary function, which is not covered.

In response, the government moved for summary judgment on the ground that it was protected through the government immunity doctrine. It also alleged that the plaintiff acted in a contributorily negligent manner. The court ruled in favor of the city on the basis that the insurance agreement contained a non-waiver clause that specifically stated that the city was not waiving its government immunity right. The court also stated that the record lacked clear evidence regarding whether the plaintiff acted negligently at the time of the accident.

The appellate court reversed on the basis that immunity could not be invoked because the government was involved in a proprietary function by owning and maintaining the property and leasing it to an art guild through a revitalization project. On appeal again, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed and found that governmental immunity was appropriate in this case because the revitalization project was intended to improve the safety, health, and welfare of the residents. These were appropriate government functions, according to the Supreme Court.

Slip and fall accidents are terrifying and can result in serious injuries that leave a victim with permanent disabilities and heavy financial burdens. At Burton Law Firm, our lead attorney will ensure that you receive the compassionate and responsive legal counsel that you require during this difficult situation. To set up your free consultation, call as soon as possible at 1-833-623-0042 or contact the firm online.