Can a Tenant’s Guests Sue the Landlord for Slip-and-fall Injuries?

Can a Tenant’s Guests Sue the Landlord for Slip-and-fall Injuries?

Thanksgiving Day has passed, but the long holiday weekend is just getting underway!  With friends and families gathering to celebrate, a question that recently came up involves a landlord’s liability to his/her tenant’s guests.

As my clients know, I handle slip-and-fall cases, also known as premises liability.  These include trip/slip-and-fall cases on a Los Angeles sidewalk, as well as trip-and-falls on private property.

Here’s the question:

If a landlord or property owner does not know that there is a dangerous condition on his or her property, and the tenant invites a guest or worker onto the property, and that person is injured, can the injured person sue the property owner (as opposed to the tenant) for his injuries?

The answer is no, as explained by the California Court of Appeal this week in Garcia v. Holt.

Mario Garcia, a gardener, was injured when he walked over explosive materials stored on the property by George Jakubec.  Mr. Jakubec leased the property from its owner, Michele Holt.

Garcia sued Ms. Holt, alleging that as the landlord, she had an obligation to make sure the property was safe.  The Court ruled that a landlord who does not know that the tenant has created a dangerous condition cannot be held liable for such.

In the Court’s words, “before liability may be thrust on a landlord for a third party’s injury due to a dangerous condition on the land, a plaintiff must show that the landlord had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition in question, plus the right and ability to cure the condition.”

The Court pointed to the public policy in play with every landlord-tenant relationship.  While a landlord may own the property, he or she does not have physical possession of it once a tenant moves in.  In fact, it’s illegal for a landlord to even enter the property without the tenant’s permission.

As such, if a landlord does not know that there is a hazardous condition on the property, he or she cannot be held liable for it while the tenant is in possession of the premises.

This rule would be different if the landlord knew about the condition and failed to correct it.  But that wasn’t the case in Garcia v. Holt, and therefore Michele Holt was not liable for Mario Garcia’s injuries.

This is an important premises liability ruling for tenants, landlords, and their invited guests.

Enjoy your holiday weekend, and for questions about your Los Angeles slip-and-fall or auto accident case, the Rabbi Lawyer is on call almost every day.

Every day except Shabbos!