Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a number of people who were injured when the rear deck of a home owned by the defendant and rented to several of the plaintiffs disconnected from the home and fell to the ground. Ultimately, the court concluded that the landlord may not be held liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries because there was insufficient evidence showing that the landlord knew the deck may have been in need of repair. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs’ case was dismissed.
The Facts of the Case
The landlord rented a home to several of the plaintiffs. Back when the landlord purchased the home in 1988, he hired an independent contractor to rebuild the home’s rear deck. In 2010, the landlord leased the home to several of the plaintiffs. At around the time when the plaintiffs took possession, the landlord visited the home, repaired a few boards on the rear deck, and inspected the deck for any visible defects. The landlord did not notice anything in need of structural repair.
A year after the plaintiffs moved in, they were hosting a barbecue when the rear deck pulled away from the home. The portion of the deck nearest to the home fell to the ground, injuring several of the people on the deck. A personal injury lawsuit was filed against the landlord, claiming that he was negligent in maintaining the deck.
A code enforcement officer visited the home after the deck collapsed and noted that there were no obvious problems with the deck, and a visual inspection would not have indicated the deck needed repair. He also explained that the deck appeared to be up to code. Another expert witness called by the plaintiffs visited the home about a month after the deck had collapsed. He noted that there was some rotting in the wood, but it would not necessarily be visible unless certain boards were removed from the deck.
The trial court found that there was some evidence suggesting the landlord knew or should have known that the deck needed repair, and it denied the landlord’s motion for summary judgment. The landlord appealed.
On appeal, the trial court’s decision was reversed. The court explained that landlords can only be held liable in two circumstances. First, they may be liable if there is a defect in the property at the time it was rented. The court explained that the landlord had hired an independent contractor to build the deck and could not be responsible for the contractor’s work. Second, liability may be appropriate when a landlord fails to make repairs he agreed to make. However, here, the court held, the tenants never requested the landlord to repair the deck. As a result, the plaintiffs’ case was dismissed.
Have You Been Injured on Another Person’s Property?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured on another person’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation though an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. Each premises liability case is different because the level of proof necessary depends on several factors, including your relationship with the landowner. To learn more about Indiana premises liability lawsuits, and to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney, call the Indiana law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse at 888-532-7766 to schedule your free consultation.
Hotel Carbon Monoxide Leak Kills One, Injures 14, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, April 10, 2017
Party’s Failure to Raise an Issue at Trial Will Almost Certainly Prevent Appellate Review of That Issue, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 27, 2017