Am I Liable for a Tenant Fall?

by Anonymous
(Jersey City, New Jersey)

I am a landlord and had a family of four as tenants (2 adults and 2 children) in Jersey City, NJ. The tenants left recently due to the female adult falling down the main stairs in the hallway leading from her apartment. I was away on vacation and the tenants were aware of me being on vacation when incident occurred.

There were no defects with the stairs nor were there any lighting issues throughout her path. I received a letter in the mail from her attorney to have an homeowner's insurance agent contact the office or my personal lawyer. I do not have homeowner's insurance at the moment, nor do I know for a fact that she even fell on my premises since I was away. I don't think there is a police report for this incident as I was told by the tenants there wasn't one.

They have been living in that apartment since July 2011 and should be very well aware of their path. I was even told by the victim's husband who assisted her right after her "fall" that she was carrying lots of bags down the stairs when she fell.

What is your suggestion towards this situation? What if it is proven that she did in fact fall on my premises but due to her losing balance and not because of anything caused by the stairs or lighting... will I the landlord still be held liable for her fall? Any information you can give would be helpful. Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Am I Liable for a Tenant Fall?":

Anonymous (Jersey City, New Jersey):

There isn't a "black or white" answer to your questions. Unfortunately those questions may have to be answered at trial. Inasmuch as you didn't have liability insurance at the time of the tenant's fall the attorney may have no choice but to pursue the personal injury case against your assets.

If at the time of the fall your apartment complex or residence was a corporation the attorney may only be able to pursue the assets of that corporation. If you personally own the premises your personal assets may be subject to attachment and seizure.

The good news is the woman's attorney will first have to prove the woman's fall was a direct and proximate cause of your negligence. From the facts you present it doesn't appear the stairs or lighting were in disrepair. The bags of groceries may also inure to your benefit, especially if they obscured the woman's line of sight.

Your best bet would be to find an attorney. At this point you don't have much choice.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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