Court Discusses Applicable Legal Standard in Vacation Rental Premises Liability Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a personal injury case involving a slip-and-fall accident that occurred in a vacation rental home. The case required the court to determine whether the duty owed by the owner of a vacation rental home was equivalent to that of a landlord, or whether the owner owed the higher duty that is imposed on innkeepers. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s rights and responsibilities under the vacation rental contract were more similar to that of a rented property; thus, the court determined that the owner owed the same duty as a landlord owes her tenants.

The case is important those who have been injured in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident because it illustrates the varying legal standards that may apply depending on the relationship between the parties, as well as the reason why the plaintiff is visiting the defendant’s property.

Case Facts

The plaintiff and her family rented a home from the defendants for a week-long vacation. The home was located in a popular beach destination, and was rented fully furnished. The owners rented out the home for about half the year, and used the home for personal uses the remaining portion of the year. The home was managed by a property management company, who maintained the home in between rentals, handled the security deposit, and provided renters with the keys upon check-in.

After checking in, the plaintiff was carrying a bin of linens into the house when she tripped and subsequently fell on a raised lip that acted as a transition between tile and carpet flooring. The plaintiff seriously injured her elbow as a result of the fall, requiring two surgeries. The plaintiff later filed a premises liability lawsuit against the home’s owners.

The plaintiff claimed that the owners owed her an “elevated” duty of care because the owners were acting as “innkeepers.” Thus, under the law, the plaintiff claimed that the owners owed a duty to “take every reasonable precaution to protect” their guests. Specifically, the plaintiff argued the owners failed to maintain the floors safely, failed to inspect the floors, and failed to warn her of any hidden defects.

The owners of the home sought dismissal of the plaintiff’s case on the basis that they only owed the plaintiff the duty that a landlord owed a tenant, which was just to warn renters of any known hazards that were not open and obvious.

The court agreed with the defendant owners and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that the nature of the agreement between the parties more closely resembled a landlord/tenant relationship than it did an innkeeper/guest relationship. The court noted that, unlike in a hotel, the owners did not have an agent present on-site and were actually prohibited from entering the property while it was rented. Additionally, the court noted that the house was not cleaned daily, and was only cleaned in between occupancies. Finally, the rental agreement required a security deposit. Finding that the owners only owed the plaintiff the duty that a landlord owed to her tenants, the court held that the owners did not violate the duty that they owed to the plaintiff.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated New Mexico personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience representing injury victims in a wide range of personal injury claims, including premises liability cases. To learn more, call 505-889-FINE to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Car Accident Victim’s Case to Proceed Against Allegedly Negligent Police Officer, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2018.

Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case, Applying Recreational-Use Statute, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 1, 2018.