Guests of Tenants who Suffer Personal Injury May Hold Landlords Accountable

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In a personal injury law suit, the Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled in a 7-0 decision that landlords have a duty not only to their tenants, but to their tenants’ guests. The Court found that landlords are not only legally required to keep tenants’ apartments safe, but are also obligated to keep common areas “safe and sanitary” and in good repair.

The case that brought about the ruling involved a 23 year old Columbus woman who was seriously injured at an apartment complex when she was 16 years old. Lauren Mann was visiting friends at the Northgate Apartments on Old Henderson Road in 2007. She stumbled on dark hallway stairs and fell through a plate-glass panel beside the exit. Bulbs were burned out in all lighting fixtures.

Ms. Mann’s original lawsuit was dismissed by a Franklin County, Ohio judge when that judge ruled that the apartment complex owed only an “ordinary duty of care” to Mann because she was not a tenant. The Franklin County Court of Appeals reversed the trial court judge. The case was then considered by the Ohio Supreme Court.

In its decision, the Ohio Supreme Court also unanimously agreed that if landlord negligence is shown, that negligence cannot be “blunted” by the “open and obvious danger” doctrine that purports that people have a duty to discover hazards and protect themselves accordingly. Ms. Mann’s attorney stated “This ruling is going to make landlords more responsible and hopefully put some bite in the law – repair your property and don’t create dangerous situations.”

Ms. Mann’s case will now return to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court where she seeks more than $500,000 in damages from the landlord.

The Columbus personal injury attorneys at Clark, Perdue & List are experienced in holding negligent landlords accountable for injury caused by failing to maintain a rental property in a reasonably safe condition.