Any landlord who rents you a place to live must keep it in a reasonably safe condition and must perform needed repairs. A landlord’s negligence to maintain the premises in a safe condition exposes tenants to potential accidents and bodily injuries. This is exactly what happened to a 58-year-old woman who lived on the fourth floor of the four-story walk-up building. The woman was injured when she slipped on the second step from the top of the interior stairwell and fell down fifteen steps. She sustained injuries to her right shoulder and neck. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Diagnostic tests taken there did not show any fractures, and the woman was discharged the same day. However, her pain continued to get worse.
The injured tenant started a personal injury action against the owner of the building and a roofing company that had installed the roof seven years earlier. The plaintiff testified that the roof had been leaking for a long period of time. She argued that a large bubble had formed on the ceiling on the fourth-floor hallway because of the leak and that water had also often leaked from the bulkhead leading from the roof. She also testified that the bubble had burst several hours before her accident, causing the steps to become very wet. She noted that there was no elevator or other means of entering or exiting her apartment and that she had no choice but to use these steps to access her apartment.
The landlord claimed that the leak was caused by the negligence of the roofing company who performed the initial roofing work in a negligent manner and failed to correct the deficiencies when called to the premises on several occasions, including three weeks before the incident. The roofing company denied responsibility. The roofing company had offered a five-year warranty on the roof, which was installed seven years before the incident occurred. However, complaints began before the warranty expired. The roofing company argued that it suggested that the building invests in ameliorative steps, such as having a liner installed, but that the building owner declined to take these steps. The company further denied that it was called back as frequently as claimed by the defendant building and that it was called to the premises three weeks before the incident occurred. The roofing company argued that the building did not have records for the visits and could not produce invoices referring to these disputed visits.
The plaintiff argued that she continued to suffer continuing pain and a significant loss of using her right arm that was permanent in nature. MRIs revealed that she sustained tears to the right, dominant shoulder as well as a cervical herniation. She underwent both neck and shoulder surgery and alleged that although she had significant improvement in her cervical condition, she continued to suffer severe pain and limitation with the use of her arm. She asserted that her arm pain and loss of use is permanent in nature. The plaintiff contended that she experiences difficulties with the activities of daily living and often requires assistance in basic tasks, such as tying her shoes.
The plaintiff has several young grandchildren and maintained that because of the residual damage to her arm, she is very limited in the extent she could play with them – both because of the restriction of use in and of itself and because of the likelihood that being active with the grandchildren will cause additional injury. The plaintiff argued that this greatly increases her anguish. The plaintiff did not claim lost wages in her action.
The case settled prior to trial for $2,225,000, with the landlord paying $2,100,000 and the roofing company paying $150,000.