Roma v. Moreira – Duty of Landlord to Prevent Tenant Injuries

Disputes between tenants and landlords are fairly common almost anywhere you live. Unfortunately, too many landlords are more concerned about their bottom line than in ensuring their property is habitable and safe for tenants and guests. stairway

There have been cases in which the lack of management can result in injuries. For example, if there are slippery floors, broken stairwells or damaged handrails, this could result in a serious fall. Where doors and windows aren’t equipped with locks or other security features, this could make residents and guests vulnerable to crime.

In these cases, where injury results, the terms of the lease agreement isn’t the only recourse Florida tenants have.

There may be grounds for a premises liability lawsuit. Tenant would need to prove landlord breached a duty of care owed and as a result, tenant suffered a compensable injury. Florida residents are also protected under the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, codified in Chapter 83 of Florida Statutes. When an injury results from a violation of these statutes, it can only serve to make the case stronger. Included in landlord responsibilities are ensuring the property is up to health codes, checking to ensure property is in reasonable working condition and is reasonably maintained, addressing concerns of animals on the property and ensure the property is reasonably secure.

Still, these cases can be challenging, which is why it’s important to have an experienced attorney.

All states have their own landlord-tenant laws and interpretation of premises liability. Recently, the Rhode Island Supreme Court took on these issues in Roma v. Moreira. According to court records, the case began with a plaintiff fall.

He fell down the stairs at his residence and suffered injury as a result. Plaintiff and his wife filed a lawsuit alleging failure to maintain the premises in a good, clean and safe condition. Plaintiff sought damages for personal injuries, while his wife alleged loss of consortium.

Two days into a three-day trial, plaintiff’s lead counsel told the court that his co-counsel overheard one juror saying to another that if plaintiff could survive cancer, he could survive this. Plaintiff was in fact a cancer survivor, though it wasn’t clear how jurors would have known this.

Jurors were questioned by the judge and denied having ever had such a conversation, saying the only thing they talked about with each other was food and a request for gum. Other jurors insisted they had heard no such conversation. The judge declined to remove those jurors.

Jurors ultimately delivered a verdict in favor of defendant landlord.

Plaintiff appealed, alleging trial court erred in refusing to declare a mistrial due to juror misconduct. However, a review by the state supreme court resulted in justices concluding trial judge had acted appropriately in questioning the two jurors in camera before reaching her conclusion.

Plaintiff did not otherwise challenge the merits of the case.

This type of issue could arise in practically any type of litigation where jurors are involved.

Although it is unclear from the state supreme court record the exact nature of the alleged stairway defect that resulted in plaintiff injuries, we can say that landlords are responsible to ensure stairs are safe. Generally, plaintiffs injured on a stairway could successfully sue a landlord if it could be proven:

  • Landlord had a duty to keep the stairs in good condition;
  • Stairs were not in good condition;
  • It as foreseeable broken stairs would cause an accident;
  • A defect in the stairs directly caused injury to plaintiff.

If you have questions about an injury suffered on someone else’s property, contact our offices today to learn more about how we can help.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Roma v. Moreira, Nov. 13, 2015, Rhode Island Supreme Court

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Left Turn Motorcycle Accident Kills 29-Year-Old Physician Assistant, Nov. 20, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer Blog