When an injury is sustained on a rental property, the landlord and property manager can sometimes be held liable. With the help of a premises liability lawyer, victims filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim will need to prove the landlord failed to fulfill obligations to tenants or visitors. The victims will need to prove the landlord's failure was the direct cause of harm, and that the harm sustained was foreseeable harm for which compensation should be available.
Determining how far a landlord's liability should extend can be a complicated question. One recent case shows a landlord can be broadly held responsible when he allows dangerous conditions to exist in a property he owns and maintains.
How Far Does a Landlord's Liability Extend When Conditions are Unsafe?
Forbes reported on the recent case addressing the extent of landlord liability. The case, called Ruiz v. Victory Properties, made it all the way to the state Supreme Court in Connecticut.
The incident leading to the premises liability litigation first occurred in 2008. Two cousins were playing in the back of the apartment complex. Both cousins lived in the apartment with their parents, in separate units. Both were reportedly being supervised by adults as they played. In the back of the apartment complex where they were playing on the landlord's property, there were a variety of rocks, broken pieces of concrete, and cinder blocks.
One of the two cousins decided to see if he could break the cinder block by dropping it from his apartment three stories up. He told his other cousin, who was seven-years-old and who stayed below, to move out of the way when he dropped the block. He threw the block from his window and his cousin did not move out of the way. She sustained a crushed skull and suffered traumatic brain injury when she was hit in the head with the cinder block he threw.
Her family filed a lawsuit against the landlord, claiming the landlord had created dangerous conditions on the property leading to her injury. The case, however, was dismissed by the trial court on the grounds of foreseeability. The trial court held because the defendant couldn't have foreseen the risk of a child carrying a cinder block and throwing it from a window, the landlord couldn't be to blame for what occurred.
The appeals court, however, reversed the decision and the state Supreme Court upheld the reversal. This means the case can move forward and a jury will decide if the landlord should be held responsible.
Foreseeability is a key issue in many injury cases. For a plaintiff to recover compensation from a defendant for losses, the damage the plaintiff endured must have been a foreseeable or likely outcome of the defendant's actions or omissions. In this particular case, the court determined the landlord should have foreseen some kind of harm would come from leaving cinder blocks and other construction materials lying around the back of the apartment. Since some harm was foreseeable, the case should move forward and the plaintiff should have the chance to prove the landlord is liable for losses.