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Property owners and occupiers generally have a legal duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. Liability for injuries may arise in several circumstances including when an owner or occupier of a dangerous building is aware of a potential hazard on the property and neglects to repair it or warn others about it. Examples of conditions that can lead to liability include defective staircases, ice or snow patches, collapsed ceilings or inadequate security. Recently, a young Manhattan woman was found dead at the bottom of a marble staircase in an apartment building due to what is now believed to have been an accidental slip and fall. The New York coroner declared that the woman died as a result of blunt force trauma to her head and neck, which is consistent with a fall down a flight of stairs. The man who found the woman said she was lying face down on the first floor and that when he turned her over, he noticed blood on her nose, mouth and throat. Although in this case it appears the fall was accidental, if it were due to a property owner’s negligence the victim’s family may have a claim for a premises liability suit. Courts typically hold that landlords are not liable to tenants for injuries that occur at a leased property, especially if they are due to latent defects. A latent defect is one that is concealed and dangerous, whereas a patent defect is one that is generally obvious to a casual observer. An exception, however, exists for latent defects that existed at the time the tenant took possession of the property. In these cases, if the landlord knew of the defect, he or she may be liable for injuries stemming from it. Premises liability cases resulting in fatalities are tragic and almost always preventable. Landlords and tenants alike should work to maintain safety by looking out for potential dangers in and around the premises. Source:, “ME: Socialite Carlisle Brigham’s Death Was Accidental,” Aug. 28, 2012