Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Maarten v. Cohanzad
Plaintiffs appealed from a trial court order sustaining a demurrer to the class allegations in their complaint against Defendants, their former landlords. The complaint asserts claims under the Ellis Act and the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (the Ordinance), Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), as well as for fraud and violations of section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code (Unfair Competition Law). Defendants evicted Plaintiffs from their rent-controlled apartments. Plaintiffs alleged that although Defendants declared they were removing the apartment buildings from the rental market entirely, Defendants subsequently listed units in the same buildings for rent on Airbnb. Defendants demurred to the class allegations in the complaint, asserting Plaintiffs could not satisfy the requirements for class certification as a matter of law. The trial court found Plaintiffs could not satisfy the community of interest requirement for liability or damages, and class treatment was not the superior method for resolving the litigation The Second Appellate District reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the trial court erred in finding, as a matter of law, that there is no reasonable probability Plaintiffs will show common questions of law or fact predominate as to the classwide claims for liability. The court explained that Plaintiffs’ allegations indicate a need for individualized proof or calculation of damages. However, the court concluded Plaintiffs have alleged such issues may be effectively managed and there remains a reasonable probability Plaintiffs will satisfy the requirements for class certification. View "Maarten v. Cohanzad" on Justia Law
Divine Food and Catering v. Western Diocese of the Armenian etc.
Divine Food and Catering, LLC (Divine) appeals from the dismissal of its malicious prosecution complaint against defendants and respondents the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America (the Diocese), St. John Armenian Church (St. John), Archpriest Manoug Markarian (Archpriest Manoug), and Harout Markarian (collectively, defendants). The trial court dismissed the complaint after granting Defendants’ special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute. Divine was a commercial tenant of St. John’s banquet hall. St. John and the Diocese (the church entities) filed an unlawful detainer action seeking to evict Divine based on a purported oral month-to-month lease. Following trial, the unlawful detainer court found the written lease was valid and granted judgment for Divine. Divine then filed its malicious prosecution complaint, alleging Defendants brought the unlawful detainer action in order to extort money from Petros Taglyan, the father of Divine’s owner. Divine alleged Defendants had no probable cause to bring the unlawful detainer action. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court held that the triggers for the interim adverse judgment rule are limited to actual judgments and rulings on dispositive motions. The trial court, therefore, erred by applying the rule based on the unlawful detainer court’s sua sponte comments during trial. Alternatively, Divine has made an adequate showing for anti-SLAPP purposes that the unlawful detainer court’s comments were the product of fraud or perjury, which precludes application of the interim adverse judgment rule. Defendants have shown no other valid basis to support their anti-SLAPP motion. View "Divine Food and Catering v. Western Diocese of the Armenian etc." on Justia Law
Moses v. Roger-McKeever
Moses attended a gathering at a condominium Roger-McKeever rented. Two years later, Moses filed suit for injuries. Moses alleged that, upon her arrival, she mentioned to Roger-McKeever that the entryway was dark. Roger-McKeever “was apologetic indicating that there was an electrical problem” and explained that her landlord had not been responsive in repairing the light. A photograph depicted three steps leading up from a street sidewalk, to a short walkway that ended at a door to Roger-McKeever’s condominium. Moses stated that when she was leaving, she could not see the second step and fell. She provided a declaration from a mechanical engineer that the steps were non-compliant with the building code and that the absence of a handrail and the riser heights were probable causes of the accident. Roger-McKeever submitted a declaration and the depositions of two individuals who attended the meeting, indicating that the walkway was not noticeably dark that night.The court granted Roger-McKeever summary judgment, finding that Roger-McKeever was a tenant who did not have control over the steps or the outside lighting and had no duty to maintain or repair that area. Roger-McKeever did not have a duty to warn Moses because she did not have prior notice that the steps were a “non-obvious” dangerous condition. The court of appeal affirmed. Moses did not raise a triable issue of material fact as to whether Roger-McKeever owed her a duty of care to protect her against the allegedly dangerous condition of the walkway. View "Moses v. Roger-McKeever" on Justia Law
Wieland v. Freeman
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court failing to rule on Plaintiffs' contract claim, holding that the court of appeals correctly found that Plaintiffs waived their breach of contract claim.Plaintiffs, who leased property owned by Defendants, brought this action alleging wrongful eviction, breach of contract, and defamation. The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendants on the wrongful eviction claim and then dismissed Plaintiffs' defamation claims. The court of appeals affirmed and ruled that Plaintiffs waived their breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly held that Plaintiffs waived their contract claim. View "Wieland v. Freeman" on Justia Law
Fleurrey v. Department of Aging and Independent Living, et al.
Plaintiff Tina Fleurrey appealed the dismissal of her negligence claim against defendant landlord 3378 VT Route 12 LLC. In her complaint, she alleged that landlord was responsible for the drowning death of decedent Scott Fleurrey, a fifty-four-year-old man with developmental disabilities, on the property that landlord leased to decedent’s caretakers, Upper Valley Services (UVS) and Azwala Rodriguez. The question on appeal was whether the civil division properly dismissed plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff argued the civil division erred by misunderstanding the controlling law because landlord owed decedent a duty to protect and because the civil division drew inferences favorable to landlord. The Vermont Supreme Court held that the civil division properly granted landlord’s dismissal motion because: (1) Vermont precedents required an invitee to seek redress for injuries sustained on negligently maintained property from the land possessor who invited the injured invitee to the defective property, rather than from the absentee landlord; (2) §§ 343 and 343A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts were inapplicable here because those Restatement sections addressed only land possessors, and plaintiff did not allege that landlord was the possessor of the subject property; and (3) no duty could arise where, as here, a plaintiff did not allege that a legal relationship existed between a decedent and a landlord. View "Fleurrey v. Department of Aging and Independent Living, et al." on Justia Law
In re Auburn Creek Limited Partnership
The Supreme Court conditionally granted a writ of mandamus sought by real parties in interest (the Paus) in this action brought against Relators (collectively, Auburn Creek) seeking $33 million in damages allegedly caused by carbon-monoxide exposure in a dwelling the Paus leased from Auburn Creek, holding that the trial court clearly abused its discretion in denying Auburn Creek's motion to compel.Auburn Creek filed a motion to compel a neuropsychological exam for each of the Pau family members. The trial court denied the motion with prejudice on the grounds that the scope of the exams was not sufficiently circumscribed and subsequently denied Auburn Creek's request for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by concluding that Auburn Creek had not shown good cause for the exams. View "In re Auburn Creek Limited Partnership" on Justia Law
Ramirez v. PK I Plaza 580 SC LP
Ramirez, a self-employed contractor, was hired by a shopping center’s tenant to remove an exterior sign after the tenant vacated its space. While searching for the sign’s electrical box, he entered a cupola on the shopping center’s roof and fell through an opening built into the cupola’s floor, sustaining serious injuries. In a suit against Kimco, which owns and operates the shopping center, the trial court granted Kimco summary judgment based on the Privette doctrine, which creates “a strong presumption under California law that a hirer of an independent contractor delegates to the contractor all responsibility for workplace safety[,] . . . mean[ing] that a hirer is typically not liable for injuries sustained by an independent contractor or its workers while on the job.”The court of appeal reversed and remanded. Kimco did not hire its tenant or Ramirez to perform the work. Kimco did not delegate its own responsibility for the roof’s condition to Ramirez through an employment relationship, as contemplated by Privette. Nor did Kimco delegate such responsibility by virtue of its landlord-tenant relationship. The court acknowledged “the strong possibility that Kimco will prevail under general principles of premises liability. “ View "Ramirez v. PK I Plaza 580 SC LP" on Justia Law
Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority v. Mael, et al.
A boiler exploded in a home owned by a nonprofit regional housing authority, severely injuring a man who lived there. He sued the housing authority in both contract and tort, claiming that his lease-purchase contract included a promise that the authority would inspect the boiler, which it failed to do with reasonable care. After the man dismissed his contract claim, the housing authority asked the court to decide as a matter of law that a breach of a contractual promise could not give rise to a tort claim. But the superior court allowed the man to proceed to trial on his tort claim, and the jury awarded over $3 million in damages, including over $1.5 million in noneconomic damages and separate awards to several of his family members for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court reduced the man’s noneconomic damages award to $1 million because of a statutory damages cap, but it excluded the family members’ awards from the amount subject to the cap. The housing authority appealed, maintaining it should have been granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the contract did not create a continuing legal duty to inspect the boiler with reasonable care. It also argued it should have been granted a new trial because it had established that the boiler explosion was caused by a product defect rather than negligent inspection. Finally, the authority argued the family members’ damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress should have been included in the amount subject to the statutory damages cap. The man cross-appealed, arguing that the damages cap violated due process because it failed to account for inflation or the severe nature of his physical injuries. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court's judgment on all issues. View "Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority v. Mael, et al." on Justia Law
Fountain v. Fred’s, Inc., et al.
The South Carolina Supreme Court granted review of a court of appeals' decision affirming a trial court's finding that Respondents Fred's, Inc. (Fred's) and Wildevco, LLC (Wildevco) were entitled to equitable indemnification from Petitioner Tippins-Polk Construction, Inc. (Tippins-Polk). Respondent Fred's was a Tennessee corporation that operated a chain of discount general merchandise stores in several states, including South Carolina. Respondent Wildevco is a South Carolina limited liability company that owned a tract of undeveloped commercial property in Williston, South Carolina. In February 2005, Wildevco and Fred's entered into a lease agreement in which Wildevco agreed to construct a 16,000-square-foot commercial space located in Williston, South Carolina, according to Fred's conceptual design specifications. In turn, Fred's agreed to lease the property for ten years. In April 2005, Wildevco entered into a contract with general contractor Tippins-Polk for the construction of the Fred's store and adjoining strip center. Pursuant to the lease agreement between Wildevco and Fred's, Wildevco was the party responsible for "keep[ing] and repair[ing] the exterior of the  Premises, including the parking lot, parking lot lights, entrance and exits, sidewalks, ramps, curbs," and various other exterior elements. Fred's was responsible for maintenance of the interior of the premises. Five years after the Fred's store opened, on a sunny day in March, Martha Fountain went to the Williston Fred's to purchase light bulbs. Her toe caught the sloped portion of the ramp at the entrance of the store, causing her to trip and fall. Fountain sustained serious injuries to her hand, wrist, and arm and has undergone five surgeries to alleviate her pain and injuries. Fountain and her husband filed a premises liability suit against Fred's and Wildevco, alleging Respondents breached their duty to invitees by failing to maintain and inspect the premises and failing to discover and make safe or warn of unreasonable risks. Pertinent to this appeal, Tippins-Polk argued the court of appeals erred in finding a special relationship existed between it and Fred's and in finding Respondents proved they were without fault as to the Fountain premises liability claim. Because the Supreme Court found Respondents failed to establish they were without fault in the underlying action, judgment was reversed. View "Fountain v. Fred's, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Higgins v. Bailey
The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether a landlord who had no knowledge that a tenant’s dog had dangerous propensities could be held liable for injuries the dog causes to individuals who enter the property with tenant’s permission. Plaintiff Katherine Higgins, who was badly injured by a tenant’s dog while on the leased property, challenged the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant landlords. When he was showing the house on landlords’ behalf after tenant moved in, a realtor who was representing landlords in marketing the property observed obvious signs around the house that a dog lived there, including door casings that were badly scratched by the dog. The realtor did not see the dog and did not know its size or breed or whether it had ever acted aggressively towards any person or other animal; based on the sound of the dog, he opined that it was “tough and loud.” Plaintiff, a neighbor, was attacked and seriously injured by tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, while visiting tenant on the rental property. On appeal, plaintiff renews her argument that landlords have a general duty of care to the public, and that this duty includes a duty of reasonable inquiry concerning tenants’ domestic animals. In addition, she argues that landlords were on notice of the dog’s dangerous propensities on the basis of the observations made by realtor, acting as landlords’ agent. Finally, she contends that landlords are liable to plaintiff on the basis of a municipal ordinance. Finding no reversible error in granting summary judgment to the landlords, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Higgins v. Bailey" on Justia Law