Negligent Property Management Blamed for Repeated Trip and Fall Accidents

Retail Expert WitnessThis case involves a walkway outside of a large strip mall that was the site of a number of trip and fall accidents over a period of several years. The issue appeared to stem from the placement of signs on the walkway by tenant shop owners, which left a small area of sidewalk free from obstruction and forced people to walk close to the unguarded edge of the walkway. The signs were also the cause of several trip and fall accidents themselves, due to protruding legs that supported the signs. It was alleged that the signage was prohibited under the terms of the tenant shop owners collective lease agreements, and that the property manager failed to adequately enforce these restrictions due to a lack of experience and training.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What training and experience is required for a commercial property manager?
  • 2. If there are restrictive easements and zoning ordinance in place for the safety of pedestrians, do they need to be enforced?
  • 3. Why is it important to prohibit signage on sidewalks and walkways?

Expert Witness Response E-055687

There are a few professional organizations that provides training for property managers. In no way should a person be hired to have responsibility of property without experience and adequate training. Even experienced managers need recurring training and education offerings to stay current in the profession. If there are restrictive easements and zoning ordinances, they are in place for a specific reason. A manager needs to understand the property and all of the nuances in order to best manage it. The easements and ordinances do need to be enforced. It is important to prohibit signage on sidewalks and walkways to allow pedestrians a clear path (without obstacles) to get to where they are going. It appears that the signs impeded on the path/walkway allowing an injury to occur. Once a manager or owner is notified of a dangerous condition it should be documented, a work order should be created, and eventually completed to close the loop. If the management company required the use of an outside contractor causing delays, perhaps an alternative path could have been created until the problem was abated and corrected. If the problem is known and not addressed, it causes a tremendous burden to the owner and their insurer that was preventable.

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