Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a tenant who was injured while ascending the concrete steps to the residence she leased from the defendant landlord. The case presents a relevant and important issue for Maryland personal injury plaintiffs in that it shows the types of cases that can be brought when a tenant is injured due to a defect in the leased property, as well as the standards used by courts to evaluate a tenant’s claim for damages.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff leased a home from the defendant. Prior to the plaintiff taking possession of the residence, the landlord was cited for several code violations, including a sunken concrete step leading into the front door of the home.
The plaintiff moved in, and about 18 months later, she tripped and fell as she was climbing the concrete steps into the home. Specifically, the heel of the plaintiff’s shoe got stuck in a small crack between the top step and the front patio. This caused the plaintiff to fall, resulting in an injury to her ankle.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant landlord. The plaintiff made two arguments. First, she argued that the defendant was negligent in failing to warn the plaintiff of the dangerous condition of the steps. Second, the plaintiff argued that the landlord was negligent in failing to repair the steps.
Evidence presented to the court showed that after the landlord was cited for the property not being in compliance, the landlord contracted with a third party to have the repairs completed. However, an investigation subsequent to the plaintiff’s fall revealed that the landlord had not performed the necessary repairs and that the home had been “unlawfully occupied.”
The landlord moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was under no obligation to warn the plaintiff of the condition of the step because she admitted to knowing about it. The landlord also argued that he performed the necessary repairs and did not know that the step was not in compliance.
The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the landlord on both of the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff then appealed to a higher court. On appeal, the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim was affirmed on the basis that the plaintiff acknowledged that she was aware of the crack in the step. However, the court agreed with the plaintiff that the landlord may have been negligent in failing to perform the necessary repairs.
The court noted that under the lease, the landlord was responsible to make “major repairs” that were not necessitated by the tenant’s own actions. It was undisputed that the tenant did not cause the step to sink, so the court determined that it was the landlord’s duty to make the repair. Since there was conflicting evidence regarding whether the repairs had ever been performed, the court concluded that summary judgement was not proper, and the case should be submitted to a jury for resolution. Thus, the plaintiff’s second claim against the landlord will proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.
Have You Been Injured in a Rented Property?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a leased or rented property, you may be entitled to compensation from the landlord. Maryland landlords are responsible to maintain their rental properties in a reasonably safe condition, and they must generally warn tenants of known dangers. A landlord’s failure to warn a tenant of a known danger, or a landlord’s failure to perform necessary repairs to a residence, can be the basis of liability through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Court Answers Statute of Limitations Question in Recent Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 22, 2017.
Court Resolves Dog Bite Case in Favor of Plaintiff, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 2, 2018.