Can the previous seller be liabke for structural defects?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Can the previous seller be liabke for structural defects?

We bought a house 30 days ago. New Link Destination
as my wife was walking off the porch to
the driveway, the stairs broke away
from the porch, and she was thrown into
the yard. There were only three nails
connecting a 5-stair stairway, which
seems like a code violation. She may
have broken her hand in the fall. Do we
have any recourse?

Asked on May 29, 2016 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A previous seller would only be liable if--
1) The condition was unreasonably dangerous (which is not the same as a code violation; not all code violations are unreasonably dangernous, and conversly, some things which are unreasonably dangerous are not code violations); 
2) They knew, or reasonably *must* have known (i.e. under the circumstances, any seller in their position would known) of the defect; 
3) Knowing of the violation, they lied about it (which can include a lie by omission--i.e. not disclosing it); and also
4) The defect was not fairly readily visible to you and/or your inspector (since if it was visible and you bought the house anyway, you would be considered to have waived, or given up, the right to sue over it).
As you can imagine, it can be difficult to prove all these elements (and if you sue--whcih is the only way to have recourse--it would be your burden to prove them); and since you can only recover your out-of-pocket (not paid by insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid) medical costs, lost  wages (if any) and, for injuries causing long term impairment, some amount for "pain and suffering," it may not be worth taking legal action.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption