Archive for January, 2013

Considering Premises Liability In the Case of the Woman Trapped Between Two Walls

On January 16, 2013, firefighters responded to an unusual situation in downtown Portland. A woman had fallen into a tiny eight inch gap between the exterior walls of two Portland buildings and was trapped inside of the walls. The woman was ultimately rescued by firefighters, but questions remain as to how she fell into the gap in the first place.

Our Portland injury attorneys know that property owners have an obligation to keep their property safe and to prevent people on their property from becoming injured. In this case, the woman fell between two exterior buildings, so whether one or both of the building owners or occupiers could be held liable will depend upon how she fell and whether any of the building owners were responsible in any way for creating (or not correcting) conditions that led to the fall.

The Obligations of Property Owners

Slip and fall incidents happen far too often in Oregon, with people falling because of wet floors, ice and snow tracked into buildings, cracked sidewalks, slippery surfaces and a whole host of other dangers. In most cases, these slip and falls happen within a building or on public property such as a sidewalk.

In this unique case, the Portland woman did not fall within a building but instead she fell between two buildings. According to Oregon Live, the space between two buildings was reachable in one of two ways. One way is from the roof of the building next to the parking garage. The other is from a narrow adjacent wall along the back of the garage.

The owner of that property could be held liable only if there was some known hazard or danger that the property owner either was aware of or should have been aware of with reasonable inspection. For example, if the narrow wall along the back of the garage was constructed in such a way that it was possible for someone walking near it or leaning over it to fall, this could be considered a defect and a danger to patrons.  The key question in any injury lawsuit arising out of the incident would be whether the property owner(s) were negligent in any way that led to the fall and any resulting harm.

However, it is also important to note that a spokeswoman for one of the buildings involved questioned how the incident occurred while simultaneously appearing to blame the victim. This seems to indicate that the woman may have been doing something she shouldn’t have been or engaging in dangerous behavior.

If a person does engage in wrongful or dangerous behavior, such as trespassing, this does not necessarily disqualify the individual from recovering compensation in a premises liability case. The person’s behavior would need to be considered in light of the situation, as well as in light of whether a property owner knew there were trespassers and knew they were in danger. Contributory negligence law in Oregon allows a victim to make a recovery as long as they were not at a greater percentage of fault than the party against whom recovery is sought.

If you or a loved one has been injured on commercial property in the Portland area, contact  Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.

Fatal Oregon Bus Crash Presents Challenges for Rescuers

In late December of 2012, the New York Times wrote about a devastating bus accident that occurred about 3 ½ hours outside of Portland. The bus accident resulted in nine deaths and at least three dozen people were injured. The incident happened on Interstate 84 when the bus went over a guard rail.

Our Portland bus accident attorneys were especially distressed to hear that speeding and a lack of seat belts on the bus may have contributed to the high number of injuries and fatalities. We believe that the accident is an important reminder to bus companies and bus drivers of the importance of placing passenger safety as the first priority.

Oregon Bus Wreck Troubles Rescuers

According to the New York Times, the bus accident presented many challenges for rescuers. The location of the wrecked bus, which was along the side of a steep slope, was difficult for rescuers to access. The challenge was compounded by the ice at the time and by the fact that many of the people aboard the bus spoke only Korean.

To attempt to cope with the challenges and to try to rescue those who were onboard and who were trapped on the bus, first responders and emergency response personnel came from 10 different ambulance companies around the greater Portland area.

All of these rescue workers worked together, setting up a triage and taking injured passengers up the slope on stretchers.  The New York Times also reported that there were challenges in notifying the families, many of whom lived in Canada. The bus, in fact, was operated by a tour company in Vancouver and was returning to Canada from a trip to Las Vegas when the crash occurred.

Speeding & Lack of Seat Belts Contribute to Injuries

According to the Times, the investigation into the cause of the accident is still underway. However, two survivors of the crash reported to local Oregon newspapers that many on the bus were concerned that it was going down the mountain too quickly prior to the accident. The bus subsequently went out of control, going over the guard rail and tumbling down the steep slope.

If the bus was speeding, this can be viewed as negligence on the part of the bus driver. Commercial drivers are held to a high standard of care since they are responsible for the safety of passengers and since they are required to have special commercial driver’s licenses. The driver in this case was seriously injured in the accident, but when he recovers he could find himself facing lawsuits brought by the families of the deceased and by the surviving victims. The bus company could also potentially face lawsuits, although the legal issues in this case are complicated because the bus company and the bus driver are Canadian rather than American. Another likely cause of the crash is mechanical failure. If bad brakes led the bus to careen out of control going down the mountain, the busing company and/or the maintenance service company may be found negligent.

The absence of seat belts on the bus, likely also a contributing factor in the number of injuries that occurred, can also be seen as negligent since the passengers had no ability to stay secure on the bus.

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, contact the Portland injury attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.