Property Owners Liable For Injury Due to Lack of Good Repair of Premises

Property owners have certain responsibilities to people who visit their property.  This is especially true for commercial property where the general public is invited in to do business.  If the commercial property owner does not keep the parking lot and sidewalks even and in good repair, a visitor or employee could get injured and the property owner would be liable for the injuries and medical expenses.

The Lawsuit

In Hialeah Gardens, a woman rented space for her business in a commercial warehouse property.  In July 2008, the woman tripped and fell on the concrete walkway to the warehouse because there were holes and uneven areas.

The woman filed suit in February 2010 against the owner/landlord of the property, Mauna Loa Investments, LLC.  Mauna Loa did not respond to the lawsuit and the court entered a default judgment in May 2010.

Mauna Loa moved to set the default judgment aside in November 2011.  Mauna Loa argued it did not own the property on the date the woman was injured.  Mauna Loa argued that the property was owned by Iberia, NV, LLC and pointed to the lawsuit filed by the woman against Iberia.  The complaint against Iberia stated that Mauna Loa purchased the property from Iberia in October 2008.

The case went to trial on the woman’s damages and the court entered judgment against Mauna Loa.  Mauna Loa appealed.

The Appellate Decision

The appellate court noted that under to Florida law, landlords have the obligation to maintain leased premises (FL Stat. 83.51).  The law requires landlords to comply with the local building, housing, and health codes.  Even though landlord’s are required to keep all properties in good repair, the appellate court noted that Mauna Loa did not control the property at the time of the woman’s fall.  Because Mauna Loa did not own the property, they were not responsible for the upkeep and were therefore not liable for the woman’s injuries.

Local Ordinances

Miami-Dade’s municipal code requires that all parking and paved areas be kept in good repair.  “Parking and paved areas shall be maintained free of deterioration.  Deterioration shall be defined as visible holes exceeding a depth of two inches and more than 5 square inches in area, … as well as access ramps and access paths for wheelchair traffic, …  Parking areas and paved areas shall be maintained in accordance with the approved site plan and public works, building or zoning permits.”  (Miami-Dade municipal code sec. 19-15.3)

Hialeah Garden’s municipal code requires landlords “to make reasonable provisions for the clean and safe condition of common areas.”  (Hialeah Garden’s municipal code sec. 58-40)  Further, “all real property including structures, … which are either unsafe, … fail to permit safe public passage, … unsafely maintained, … or which in combination with an otherwise lawful existing use constitute a hazard or potential hazard to the public safety and health, are declared to be public nuisances. All public nuisances shall be abated by repair, rehabilitation, or removal.”  (Hialeah Garden’s municipal code sec. 30-1)

If you have been injured due to the negligent upkeep of commercial property, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to assess your situation to determine if you have a case.

The attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA.  will provide a free, no obligation consultation at our South Florida offices located in Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties. If you are unable to travel, we can see you at your home, hospital, or other location which is convenient for you. Call us at (305) 653-5555 or contact us to schedule your free consultation today.