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Commercial Landlord Not Liable 4 Fall by Tenants’ Employee

Landlord liability

commercial landlord liability

Plaintiff filed a cause of action as a result of a slip and fall on an icy surface at her workplace. The  Kent County Superior court sitting in Warwick threw out the negligence / premises liability claim on summary judgment. The RI Supreme Court sitting in Providence affirmed the lower Court’s decision in Diane Berard v. HCP, Inc., et al.

Plaintiff filed suit against commercial owner

Plaintiff filed suit against commercial owner of the premises alleging that the owner was negligent and the plaintiff was “injured and suffered lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and medical expenses.”The RI Supreme Court determined that the commercial landlord was an out of state Corporation with no control over the property and in fact leased the premises to Heathtrax. Id.

It is unclear whether the plaintiff filed a RI workers compensation claim as a result of this employment injury accident using a RI workers compensation attorney. The Defendant claimed that under its commercial lease with Healthtrax, it was healthtrax’s responsibility to maintain the premises. The defendant asserted it owed no duty under RI law to this particular Plaintiff because it was only a commercial landlord.

RI Supreme Court set forth the duty of care owed by a commercial landlord to its tenant’s invitee

“Specifically, HCP argued that its lease with Healthtrax did not require it to repair and maintain the premises, that Plaintiff’s injury was not caused by a latent defect, and that HCP did not assume a duty to repair the premises.” Id. The RI Supreme Court set forth the duty of care owed by a commercial landlord to its tenant’s invitee:

“under our well-settled law, a commercial landlord owes a duty of care to an invitee of its tenant only under the narrowest of circumstances * * * [and that] such a landowner is not liable for injuries that the tenant‟s invitee suffers on the leased premises, unless the injury results from the landlord‟s breach of a covenant to repair in the lease, or from a latent defect known to the landlord but not known to the tenant or guest, or because the landlord subsequently has assumed the duty to repair.‟ Id.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court’s reasoning in this Rhode Island Slip and fall litigation:

“The plaintiff has failed to prove that any of the three exceptions apply in this case. The master lease agreement between HCP and Healthtrax did not contain a covenant for HCP to repair; rather, it provided specifically that the tenant bore the responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the premises. See Holley, 968 A.2d at 275. Further, the icy surface on which plaintiff slipped and sustained her injury cannot be considered a latent defect known only to HCP because it was a weather condition. We have determined “that a latent defect is a defect that is undiscoverable upon reasonable inspection.‟” Id. (quoting Neri v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co., 719 A.2d 1150, 1154 (R.I. 1998)). Finally, plaintiff failed to produce any evidence demonstrating that HCP assumed a duty to repair the premises. See id. Therefore, we discern no error in the trial justice’s decision to grant defendant’s motion for summary judgment.” Id.

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.

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