Tenants and landlords both have some degree of control over the same property. This circumstance can cause questions to arise when there is an accident on the property. Who is actually responsible if both parties contributed to the injury?
Sheehan v. Weaver – Building Codes and Intoxication
This case concerned an intoxicated tenant who fell through a defective porch guardrail and was severely injured after drinking all night. The guardrail was defective and in violation of the building code.
In Massachusetts, the comparative fault rules state that if someone is less than 50% responsible for the accident, damages will be reduced. A housing court jury awarded the tenant $145,000. This was the amount after a 40% reduction because of the tenant’s intoxicated state.
The jury also found the landlord strictly liable, however, and awarded the tenant $242,000 in damages, with no consideration given to the tenant’s behavior. This was a controversial decision and was appealed.
The Supreme Judicial Court Verdict
The Massachusetts State Building Code states that if there is a building code violation in a commercial building and someone is injured, the owner is responsible regardless of any fault of the injured person. However, the appeals court ultimately agreed with the landlord that the rental property was not sufficiently commercial so that the owner was strictly liable under the Building Code. A commercial building was determined to be a place where large numbers of people gathered, such as a theater or a department store.
What this Means to Landlords and Tenants
The final result was that the tenant’s damages award was reduced by $100,000, but the landlord was still liable for $145,000. It was a mixed decision. Landlords will not be held strictly liable for any building code violation, but that they still need to take care of their property or they will be hit with lawsuits and have to pay.
When tenants are injured on the premises of their rented property, talk to an experienced attorney about Rental Claims in Greenfield MA. These cases can be very complicated even when the circumstances of the case seem obvious. However, landlords are always responsible for maintaining property in good condition, even if the tenant behaves foolishly.
The lawyers at Daniel and Fontaine LLC have over 30 years of experience with personal injury cases, including Rental Claims in Greenfield MA. Call them for a free consultation or visit their Twitter page for more information.