Injured at the Condo; Who Will Get Sued?

J.A. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a tenant who rents a condo from an individual owner. I had a guest visiting me. When she left, she fell through the stair and hurt her knee really badly. The stair gave out when she stepped on it. This is the second time it happened. The same stair gave out last year and my landlord had the association fix it. I don’t think he was a licensed contractor. My question is: can I get sued? This was my guest; I do not have renter’s insurance. My friend had to go to the emergency room because she got hurt pretty bad. Not only did her knee swell right up, but she also got cut by the screw that is now sticking out. I know she already contacted her lawyer. I feel horrible. I contacted my landlord immediately and asked her to put in a repair order ASAP. I’m concerned with someone else getting hurt. The stair is currently broken and has screws sticking out of the wood. I have children and we cannot use the front door. We have to use the basement door. I’m frustrated because this same thing happened last year. Thankfully, my guest did not get hurt too bad but, unfortunately, this time around there is a pretty serious injury that occurred. Please tell me what to do from here. This just happened today and I am a nervous wreck. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

J.A., it is never a good thing to hear about an individual getting injured because of poor or shoddy maintenance as you have described here. I am very sorry that your friend was hurt and I am very sorry for the stress that this situation has already caused you and is very likely to cause you in the not too distant future. I am not an attorney so please consider my advice as friendly. You are very likely going to need legal representation in this matter, especially since your friend has already contacted an attorney who is likely to bring suit against everyone involved, including you, your landlord, and the condo association where you live. Your lack of renter’s insurance could prove to be a costly mistake if you are deemed liable.

If there is any good news here, it is that the accident occurred outside of your unit. Depending on how the governing documents were written, this may mean that the stairs are owned and maintained by the association and not under your responsibility. Again, speak with an attorney if you are named in a lawsuit but if that is the case, it may be your saving grace. If these stairs are considered your responsibility, in any way, you can bet you will be held liable.

Assuming these stairs are not your responsibility, there is still the very real issue of you having your primary access to the unit denied because these stairs are not being properly maintained. Again, you may need to speak with an attorney and sue the association for not properly maintaining the stairs. Because you are a renter and not the owner, your course of action may be against your landlord, who in turn may need to sue the association. The bottom line is that you need to have safe and reliable entry and exit from your unit. What if there was a fire? How would you escape?

I wish you good luck in solving these problems, J.A.. The state of Connecticut has a website with lots of information about the responsibilities of your landlord. You can review them at http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/law/landlord.htm. Any knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the process of filing a complaint if the repairs aren’t made timely. Hopefully, this second incident will open the eyes of the association. If not, the high dollar lawsuit that is likely to ensue will certainly get their attention. Good luck to you and your friend!

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