If a tenant is hurt because a landlord faied to remove leaves from a flight of stairs, can they sue?

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If a tenant is hurt because a landlord faied to remove leaves from a flight of stairs, can they sue?

Yesterday my girlfriend and I were leaving our apartment to go to the laundromat. We were both carrying full laundry baskets as we were walking down the stairs. A pile of leaves was completely covering the bottom step. My girlfriend slipped and fell on the leaves and rolled her ankle. We don’t know if it’s sprained or twisted or broken or anything yet. I’m taking her to see a doctor today. Now her ankle is swollen to twice it’s normal size and she can’t put any weight on it. Can we sue the landlord for negligence for failing to remove the leaves from the stairs?

Asked on November 1, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A landlord has a duty to maintain premises in a manner that is safe. Whether or not failing to rake the leaves was negligent will depend on the circumstances. For example, if the landlord generally has not been raking, he may be. Or if had notice or knowledge that this pile was there and dangerous, he'd very possible be liable. On the other hand, if the landlord was generally good about raking up regularly and it just happened that a pile of leaves had accumulated quickly without him being aware of it, he'd probably not be liable. It all depends on whether he was taking care or not. The other factor to consider is whether it's worth suing--the usual recovery for a case like this is any missed wages, any out of pocket of medical costs, and any other out of pocket costs (e.g. taxis; paying for a grocery delivery service; etc.). If those costs aren't worth the cost and effort of a lawsuit, you shouldn't sue.


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