Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Schreiber resided in her apartment since the building was built in 1980. She was seriously injured when she fell through a skylight built into the apartment's deck. Lee built and previously owned the three-unit building. At the time of the accident, Lee’s adult children owned the property, which was managed by Golden. Before trial, Schreiber settled with the Lee children for $2.5 million. The trial court denied Lee’s motion for nonsuit on the ground Schreiber’s claims were based on a patent construction defect and barred by the statute of repose.The jury awarded Schreiber damages of over $2.6 million, allocating 12 percent of fault to Schreiber, 54 percent to Lee, 16 percent to Golden, and 18 percent collectively to the Lee children. After reducing the verdict to reflect Schreiber’s percentage of fault, the court offset the entirety of the economic damages by the amount of the settlement attributable to such damages; it denied any credit to Lee and Golden for the noneconomic damages and entered judgment against Lee for $756,000 and against Golden for $224,000. The court of appeal affirmed in all respects except as to the settlement credit, Golden, but not Lee, is entitled to a credit against both economic and noneconomic damages. The court noted the "unusual circumstances," that the Lee children were not only found independently negligent but also bore imputed liability for Golden's negligence. View "Schreiber v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of prohibition requested by Petitioners seeking to have the circuit court dismiss Nadine Rice's tort action with prejudice under W. Va. R. Civ. P. 41(b), holding that Petitioners failed to show that the circuit court's order was whether clearly erroneous as a matter of law or a flagrant abuse of its discretion.Rice sued Petitioners alleging several claims arising from her alleged negligent ejection from her home. For various reasons, Rice's case did not progress. Petitioners later moved the circuit court to dismiss the case with prejudice. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that good cause justified the delay and that the delay had not prejudiced Petitioners. Petitioners then sought an extraordinary writ to prevent the circuit court from acting beyond what they argued were the court's legitimate powers. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that Petitioner's did not show that this case was an extraordinary case requiring an extraordinary remedy. View "State ex rel. Johnson & Freedman, LLC v. Honorable Warren R. McGraw" on Justia Law

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Sandra Moscicki appealed a superior court order denying her motion to exclude expert testimony proffered by the appellees, Charles and Heidi Leno. In July 2008, the Lenos’ twin children, a boy and a girl, were born. In September 2009, the Lenos and their children moved into an apartment owned by Moscicki’s trust. Shortly thereafter, when the children were approximately eighteen months old, Heidi Leno “expressed concerns” regarding their son’s “speech and development.” Charles Leno had also observed that their son exhibited “significant developmental problems in the months before his eighteen-month checkup.” In October 2009, both children were tested for lead. The test revealed that both children had elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs). The children were again tested for lead in July 2010, shortly after their second birthday. This test revealed that they again had EBLLs, higher than previously recorded. Thereafter, the Lenos and their children moved out of Moscicki’s apartment. Moscicki brought an action against the Lenos, seeking unpaid rent. The Lenos then filed an action against Moscicki, alleging that their children suffered harm as a result of lead exposure while living in the apartment. The trial court consolidated these actions. The interlocutory question transferred to the New Hampshire Supreme Court called for the Court to decide whether for an expert opinion on causation to be admissible in a toxic tort case, the expert had to consider the “dose-response relationship” in reaching that opinion. The Supreme Court answered in the negative and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Moscicki v. Leno" on Justia Law

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Woodruff Brokerage Company, Inc., the remaining defendant in this case, appealed the trial court's denial of its motion to set aside the default judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Patricia Beatty. Beatty sued "Woodruff Brokerage Company d/b/a The River and formerly d/b/a Crest Club Apartments," Ricky Dabbs, "Century 21," and fictitiously named defendants. She lived in Crest Club Apartments, and alleged fatigue, nausea, and weakness were cause from prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide from a leaking natural-gas line beneath her bedroom, and that she had been permanently injured as a result of that exposure. Beatty asserted that Woodruff Brokerage had negligently and/or wantonly failed to maintain the premises at Crest Club Apartments in a safe condition. Woodruff defended on faulty service; the Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no properly named addressee on the certified mail allegedly sent to Woodruff, and thus, Beatty failed to prove that the complaint and summons was delivered to "the named addressee" or to the "addressee's agent." Because Beatty's service by certified mail was ineffective, the trial court did not obtain personal jurisdiction over Woodruff Brokerage, and the default judgment against it was void. Therefore, the trial court erred when it denied Woodruff Brokerage's motion to set aside the default judgment. View "Woodruff Brokerage Company, Inc. v. Beatty" on Justia Law

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CityR Eagle Landing, LLC ("CityR"), and Foresite Realty Management, LLC ("Foresite"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate its order appointing Kia Scott as guardian ad litem for certain minor parties to the underlying action against CityR and Foresite. In 2016, residents of Eagle Landing Apartments, an apartment complex owned by CityR and managed by Foresite, sued CityR and Foresite, among others. They asserted claims of breach of contract, breach of implied warranty, negligence, wantonness, premises liability, negligent hiring, trespass, and nuisance, all arising out of conditions at the apartment complex. The residents were adults living in the apartments with their minor children, who were represented in the action by their parents. All the residents were represented by legal counsel. The Supreme Court determined the trial court exceeded its discretion in appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the minor residents when there was no conflict of interest between the minor residents and their parents. "At this point in the proceedings . . . the parents' interests are aligned with those of their children. . . . [W]ith nothing before us to reflect a conflict of interest between any parent and child involved as parties in the litigation, and no proposed settlement agreement currently before the trial court for review, there is no need for a guardian ad litem for the remaining minors at this stage of the proceedings." Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ, directing the trial court to rescind its order of April 4, 2019, appointing the guardian ad litem to represent the remaining minor residents. View "Ex parte CityR Eagle Landing, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2010, a nine-month-old infant, J.H., suffered permanent scarring when he was burned by an uncovered, free-standing cast iron loop radiator in an apartment owned and managed by defendants R&M Tagliareni, LLC, and Robert & Maria Tagliareni, II, LLC. J.H.’s father placed J.H. in a twin bed to sleep with his ten-year-old stepsister. The bed did not have rails and was adjacent to a steam-heated radiator that did not have a cover. The next morning, J.H. was discovered lying on the floor with his head pressed against the hot radiator. As a result of the seriousness of J.H.’s injuries, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office launched a child abuse investigation. Detectives spoke with the building’s superintendent, who explained that while the individual apartments were not equipped with thermostat controls, the radiators in each room of the apartments could be shut off by the tenants through valves located at the base of each radiator unit. J.H. and his guardian ad litem filed suit, alleging defendants’ negligence was the cause of J.H.’s injuries. The New Jersey Supreme Court was unpersuaded that N.J.A.C. 5:10-14.3(d) imposed any regulatory duty on landlords to cover in-unit radiators with insulating material or a cover. The Court also found the tenants in this case maintained exclusive control over the heat emanating from the radiator, therefore, the Court declined to impose on landlords a new common law duty to cover all in-unit radiators. View "J.H. v. RM Tagliareni" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of Washington law to the Washington Supreme Court concerning premises liability. Shannon Adamson, an employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS), fell approximately 15 feet when the passenger ramp at the Port of Bellingham's (Port) Bellingham Cruise Terminal (BCT) collapsed. The accident caused severe, life-changing injuries. The State of Alaska leased the BCT from the Port, allowing ferries to dock at the BCT and load and unload passengers and their vehicles. The Port elected to not implement an interlock device; when Adamson was operating the passenger ramp, slack was created in some attached cables. When she removed the locking pins, the ramp collapsed, snapped the cables, and Adamson and the ramp fell approximately 15 feet until the ramp caught on the ferry. Adamson and her husband sued the Port in federal court, alleging negligence and seeking damages for medical expenses, loss of wages, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. The federal court determined Adamson was the Port's business invitee; the jury returned a verdict in favor of Adamson and awarded over $16 million in damages. The court found the Port under three separate theories of liability: duty to a business invitee, duty as a landlord, and a promise to perform repairs under the lease contract. The issue presented to the Washington Supreme Court centered on whether a property owner-landlord was liable for injuries that occur on its property when the lessee has exclusive possession at the time of the accident but only priority use under the lease and the landlord has contracted to maintain and repair the premises. The Supreme Court answered the first certified question in the affirmative and consequently, did not address the second question. View "Adamson v. Port of Bellingham" on Justia Law

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Denise Wright was abducted and robbed at gunpoint by two unknown assailants in a common area of an apartment complex (Wellspring) in which she resided. Wellspring was owned by Respondent Franklin Pineridge Associates and operated by Respondent PRG Real Estate Management, Inc. Respondent Karen Campbell was Wellspring's property manager and an employee of PRG at the time of the incident. Wright sued Respondents for negligence, alleging Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security to residents of Wellspring and breached this duty, thereby causing her damages. She also alleged Respondents were negligent in failing to properly maintain shrubbery and lighting on the premises. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondents on Wright's negligence claim. A divided court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Wright's petition for a writ of certiorari to review: (1) whether Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security services to residents; (2) if such a duty existed under the facts of this case, whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that Respondents breached the duty; and (3) whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that any such breach proximately caused Wright's damages. The Supreme Court concluded the court of appeals erred in affirming the circuit court’ grant of summary judgment in favor or Respondents. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for trial. View "Wright v. PRG Real Estate Management" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of an apartment complex and others in an action brought by plaintiff after she was injured by inhaling smoke and fumes from her apartment's heating unit after the apartment replaced the unit's motor. Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the court held that the district court correctly interpreted section 9:3221 of the Louisiana Statutes and applied its elements to the facts in this case. Under section 9:3221, defendants may be held liable for injuries caused by defects in the premises only if they knew or should have known of the defect or had received notice thereof and failed to remedy it within a reasonable time. The court held that summary judgment for defendants was proper because plaintiff failed to provide evidence sufficient to raise disputes of material fact for each element of section 9:3221 essential to her case. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion to amend the judgment. View "Lamb v. Ashford Place Apartments LLC" on Justia Law

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Pro se plaintiff Elena Dogan appeals after the trial court granted a motion for nonsuit brought by her landlord, defendant Comanche Hills Apartments, Inc., and related individuals and entities at the close of her case. Dogan alleged she was injured when some concrete stairs at the apartment complex broke under her foot, causing her to fall. She claimed defendants were responsible for her injuries based on their control of the premises. Shortly after the filing of her initial complaint, the superior court granted Dogan a fee waiver. The case ultimately went to trial on a negligence theory. Several months before trial, Dogan filed a request to waive additional court fees and specifically asked for a waiver of court reporter fees. The request was denied with the stamped notation, "The Court does not provide Court Reporter Services." As a result, there was no court reporter at trial and no reporter's transcript on appeal. Dogan sought to challenge the trial court's decision to grant a nonsuit in defendants' favor. Defendants argued in response that Dogan could not establish error due to the absence of a reporter's transcript. After initial briefing in this case was complete, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Jameson v. Desta, 5 Cal.5th 594 (2018), holding that the San Diego Superior Court's policy on providing court reporters "is invalid as applied to plaintiff and other fee waiver recipients, and that an official court reporter, or other valid means to create an official verbatim record for purposes of appeal, must generally be made available to in forma pauperis litigants upon request." As defendants appropriately conceded in their post-Jameson supplemental brief, Jameson applied retroactively to all cases, including this one, not yet final on appeal. Because there was no way to now provide a reporter for a trial that has already occurred, the Court of Appeal determined it had no choice but to reverse and remand for a new trial at which an official court reporter would be furnished. View "Dogan v. Comanche Hills Apartments" on Justia Law