Can I hold a hotel owner accountable due to an injury suffered due to a broken window?

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Can I hold a hotel owner accountable due to an injury suffered due to a broken window?

My children and I have been staying in an efficiency hotel, provided by the countys social services. Of course, its not perfect but I overlook a lot of the issues, and am grateful we have a roof over our heads. When we first moved in, I noticed that the window in the kitchen area would not stay open on its own; it was in general very shaky. So I told everyone to leave it alone. I let the owner know and nothing ever came of it. Fast forward to now, about 2 months later. Last Thursday night, I was accompanying my youngest child to the bathroom and to get his water cup. As we were putting the glass in the sink, the window came crashing in. By instinct, I tried to get my baby out the way stop it from hitting the floor but it still ended up shattering on the floor. My son had a small piece of glass stuck in his foot, which I immediately removed and tended to the area. My arm and legs are very sore. Once I made sure my son was going to be okay, I went downstairs and told the owner what happened. He seemed very annoyed that I would be bothering him with this and insinuated it was my fault. I reminded him that I told him about the window when we first arrived. He asked what did I expect him to do about it. He refused to assist me in bringing the window out. So I went back upstairs, woke my 14 year old son up and we wrapped the window and carried it down the 3 flights of stairs ourselves. The next day, the owner kept saying that it wasn’t his fault the window fell and that we must have pushed it in. We are up on the third floor, and the only reason I was up was to help my youngest son. I told him I refused to argue about it and left to get my kids from school. At this time I also left my social worker a voicemail stating what happened and how to proceed because he was giving me a hard time getting the window replaced. When we returned later that night, he put the window back in but its the same window just reversed; in fact shards of broken glass are still attached. So the remaining pane of glass is facing the inside. The only thing holding the window in is melted glue from a hot glue gun and a screw. I’m nervous as I sit here typing this because I’m not a fan of confrontation but my child was hurt, thankfully only minor. However, my arm is still hurting and I can’t fully extend it without shooting pain. My leg is sore to the touch but I have a huge bruise. No one has followed up with me from social services. This is extremely frustrating, now I don’t even want any of my children in the kitchen area in fear the same thing will happen again. Do I have any recourse to hold this owner accountable? Is there anything legally that can assist me so I can at least be removed from this place? He’s very intimidating and I don’t want to cause an issue where myself and my children will be on the street.

Asked on May 13, 2019 under Personal Injury, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

The only way to hold him monetarily accountable would be to sue him and prove that the window broke because he failed to fix it when warned. But for the injuries you describe, you frankly would not get enough money to make a lawsuit worthwhile: there is very little compensation for a minor injury or being sore. (If there is medical evidence of permanent nerve or tendon damage, that is different; in that case, consult with a personal injury attorney about possibly suing.)
If you are paying any portion of the rent, you could withhold that portion of the rent to try to force the landlord to fix the window since this is a "habitabilty" violation (something affect the ability to use the premises safely and in good health): you would hold onto the withheld rent, then, when the landlord brings an eviction action, raise the window/habitability issue as a defense (called a "Marini" defense in your state, after the leading case) and deposit the withheld rent in court while the court evaluates the situation and orders repairs.
But if social services paysl 100% of the rent, you would not have this option.
Try contacting Legal Services of New Jersey: they have a very good landlord-tenant unit which helps low-income tenants. They may be able to pressure social services to in turn put pressure on the landlord to fix issues, or else get social services to relocate you.


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