GWTC Attorney Lewis Lyons successfully represented a residential property owner and property management company in a personal injury case brought by their tenant at the trial and appellate levels. In CAROLYN RICHARDSON v. H & J PROPERTIES, LLC, ET AL. No. W2019-02082-COA-R3-CV, 2020 WL 6158463 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 21, 2020), the tenant slipped and fell on a puddle of water in her home that accumulated due to a leaky roof. She suffered a severe fracture that required surgical repair, and sought six-figure damages. However, the tenant knew about the leak before her fall and had reported it to her landlord.
Mr. Lyons developed the proof during discovery to support summary judgment based on the “co-extensive knowledge” rule. This rule insulates commercial and residential landlords from liability when a tenant or its employee knows about a dangerous condition on the leased property, even if the landlord also knows of the condition.
Noting the case was one of first impression, the Tennessee Court of Appeals rejected the tenant’s argument that the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) imposed heightened duties on landlords beyond the duty of reasonable care imposed under Tennessee common law. Specifically, the tenant argued her landlords violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 66-28-304(a)(2), which requires landlords to “[m]ake all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.” Instead, the Court of Appeals adopted the arguments advanced by the defense, and held the URLTA did not displace the common law rules of landlord liability. Because the tenant knew of the alleged dangerous condition that caused her to fall, the Defendants were not liable for her significant injury despite their co-extensive knowledge of the condition.
Glassman, Wyatt, Tuttle & Cox firm attorneys routinely handle premises liability cases for commercial and residential landlords across the mid-south. This recent case brings clarity to residential landlords Tennessee.