In a recently settled case, plaintiff sued both landlord and landlord’s construction company for injury sustained when an elevated deck collapsed.
The plaintiff in this case was an invited guest of the tenant living in a home owned by the landlord (defendant). While the tenant and guest were on the deck, the elevated deck collapsed completely. Plaintiff sustained severe leg injuries, which caused a disability absence from work.
After the collapse, plaintiff learned that the tenant had previously expressed concern over the stability of the deck. In fact, the tenant had asked the landlord (who had owned the property for “many years,” to inspect and repair the deck because from below, it appeared that the deck was separating from the home. The tenant testified that the landlord, a Class B contractor, walked to the back of the home, looked at the deck, and told the tenant there was no reason for concern.
Upon learning of this incident and prior concern, the plaintiff sued both the landlord and the landlord’s construction company. The suit demanded financial compensation to pay related medical costs and for lost wages.
After initial discovery in this case, the defendants requested a summary judgment on the matter of duty of the defendants. Asking for a summary judgment was intended to have the judge rule based on previously obtained evidence that the defendants had no duty for the condition leading to the elevated deck collapse. The plaintiff responded that a duty existed due to the landlord’s relationship with the tenant, from principles of the assumption of duty, and due to a general duty to humankind. The motion was denied.
When the summary judgment was resolved, the parties in the case were required to participate in a settlement conference with a judge. As a result of the settlement conference, an agreement was reached and the plaintiff was awarded $300,000. This amount was the limit of coverage available to the landlord.
When this elevated deck collapsed, the landlord was held liable for the condition of the deck, which allowed it to collapse, and for a failure to properly inspect and repair the deck. It was not the responsibility of the tenant to inspect and repair the deck. In fact, the tenant had fulfilled his/her responsibility in bringing the matter to the landlord’s attention and asking that it be repaired. As owner of the property, the landlord was liable for the injuries and the collapse of the elevated deck. Property owners are responsible for the condition and safety of their rental properties. Ultimately, the landlord should have made timely inspections of the property for safety issues and made indicated repairs.
When this elevated deck collapsed, both the tenant and the plaintiff could have suffered more serious injuries. All premises liability cases are not necessarily as obvious as this case. But when the condition of the property causes failure or injury, the owner is likely to be held liable.
If you or a loved one is injured on someone’s property due to the negligence of the owner, you may have the basis of a premises liability suit. If injured, you should take photos of the property and the matter that caused the injury. Next, you should call Bettina Altizer, a trusted and experienced property liability attorney in Roanoke, VA. She is known for her compassionate care for her clients and for her relentless pursuit of justice and fair compensation on their behalf.