Supreme Court Discusses Contributory Negligence in Lawsuit Against Landlord

Recently, a state court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by a tenant against her landlord, stemming from an incident in which the plaintiff was injured on the landlord’s property. The case presents an important issue that often arises in New Mexico premises liability cases. Specifically, it addressed what must be shown by a tenant to recover damages for injuries sustained on a property rented from a defendant landlord.

Wooden StepsThe Facts of the Case

In 2012, the plaintiff fell on the steps of a property she was leasing from the defendant landlord and suffered a torn ligament as a result. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant landlord, asserting that the landlord was negligent in failing to maintain the property and notify the tenant of the defect in the steps.

The landlord responded that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and that her recovery should be barred or reduced due to her own actions having a role in causing her injuries. The plaintiff presented evidence showing that prior to the beginning of her lease, a housing code inspector notified the landlord that the step was a violation of local code, and they told the landlord that the home could not be leased until it was fixed.

Following the plaintiff’s injury, the inspector once again visited the property and concluded that the steps were never brought up to code. However, the landlord’s representative testified that he did complete the necessary repairs. The tenant claimed that, on multiple occasions, the landlord saw her trying to navigate the steps and that many visitors had been injured while visiting her.

The District Court’s Decision

In the tenant’s original action, she claimed that the landlord was liable because he failed to maintain and repair the steps and did not adequately notify her of the danger that the steps posed. The landlord denied the substantive allegations and also argued that she was contributorily negligent and moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the landlord summary judgment and found that the tenant was aware of the defect, and the landlord did not conceal it.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

The case was appealed to the state’s supreme court, where the decision was ultimately affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court found that there was undisputed evidence that the tenant knew of the dangerous condition, so the landlord was not legally required to notify her of the defect. However, the court determined that there were still genuine issues of material fact that needed to be worked out regarding whether the landlord failed to exercise reasonable care in repairing the steps after the inspector notified him that they were in violation of the local building code. As a result, the court remanded the case for further proceedings.

Premises Liability Lawsuits Against New Mexico Landlords

As the above case illustrates, tenants may file New Mexico personal injury lawsuits against their landlords if they have been injured on the property they are renting. Tenants may commence a lawsuit to recoup damages for medical bills, lost earnings, and any pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident. Tenants may even sue for damages to their property. There are certain steps, however, that tenants must take to ensure that their landlord is made aware of dangerous conditions on the property. Failing to provide this notice may be fatal to the plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit.

Have You Been Injured Due to a Dangerous Condition of a Rented Property?

If you or a loved one has been injured while renting a home, you should discuss your case with the Fine Law Firm; it may be that you are entitled to compensation through a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit. Cases involving injuries on a property you are renting or leasing can create some complex issues regarding notice and liabilities, but an attorney can help you confidently navigate these issues. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact one of the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm for your free initial consultation at 800-640-6590.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses Summary Judgment, Permitting Plaintiff’s Untimely Affidavit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2017.

New Mexico Circuit Court Finds Mountain Resort Waiver of Liability Valid in Negligence Lawsuit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 5, 2018.