Handicap ramps are a tricky subject for trip and fall cases. On the one hand, they are very necessary to allow wheelchair access, but if not designed and installed correctly they can create terrible injuries. In a 2019 Georgia Court of Appeals opinion, a property and its property manager were sued when a resident walked up the handicap ramp and fall and was unable to ever walk again. The property management company had repeatedly asked the owner for permission to repair the slope of the ramp as it was not in compliance with ADA. The owner never gave permission and so the property owner argued to the Court that they should be let out of the case because it was not in their power to make the repair.
The Court analyzed in detail the contracts between the owner and the management company and while some of the documents showed the lack of authority to make those expenditures, it was still gray. The Court ultimately held that it was not black and white and the issue of whether the management company could have repaired the handicap ramp as a trip and fall hazard was one for the jury.
The defendants also tried to argue to the court that she knew she was walking up a ramp and cannot claim that it surprised her as a hidden hazard. The Court of Appeals leaned on the expert testimony heavily in deciding that it is very hard for a plaintiff to appreciate the danger that a ramp with one side angled at one grade and the other angled at another grade. They denied the motions for summary judgment and the plaintiff will have her day in court.
The ultimate takeaway is, falls on ramps really come down to how perceptible the problem is and whether the ramp is in compliance with design standards. If you want to know if you have a slip and fall or trip and fall case on a ramp, feel free to call to discuss the facts at no cost.