Child has concussion after trip and fall on faulty porch steps...

by Joe
(Youngsville, NC)

We rent a single family home in North Carolina. The front, back and side porches are all wooden, and in very weathered condition. The boards are warped, pulling away from the frame, even on steps, and nails are working their way out as boards warp. Nails are sticking out, head first in several locations.

The porches were like this when we moved in about 18 months ago, and we pointed this out to the landlord, on sight. But none of the porches have ever been sealed.

About a week ago our 4 year old daughter went to walk down the steps on the front porch. She tripped from the very top of the steps, fell completely over the stairs and hit the concrete below on her head. She was taken to the hospital ER, and was diagnosed with a concussion.

We later found that a nail head was sticking up from the warped wood about one half to one inch, exactly where she tripped from. There are multiple locations on all three porches where the wood is warped, broken, nail heads are sticking out, and they are overall dangerous situations.

Again, the landlord was aware of this when we signed the lease, as I personally pointed out to him some of the defects. This landlord has been very slow to fix things. He was made aware of our child's fall and the reason for it. The porch still has not been repaired, or even looked at.

Also a porch swing broke while our 4 year old was on it, the hook broke off from the porch ceiling. The swing crashed down to the floor, but she was not injured. We reported this to the landlord at least a month ago, but nobody has been out to look at it or repair it. He was again notified of it over a week ago.

What can we do about this? The landlord is responsible for our daughter's medical bills correct? How do we get him to pay? Also, how do we force him to make the repairs that should have been made months ago? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Child has concussion after trip and fall on faulty porch steps...":

Joe (Youngsville, NC):

Under Section 42 of North Carolina General Statutes (Landlord - Tenant), if a leased premises is so damaged it cannot be made "reasonably fit" for the tenant, then the tenant may vacate the property by a writing to the landlord within 10 days from the damage or destruction, and by paying at that same time all rent in arrear, if any, and a proportionate amount of the rent due up to the date of vacating the premises.

From the facts you present, the premises is so damaged that it is unfit for habitation. With that said, you may be able to take advantage of Section 42.

Moreover, your landlord had a legal "duty of care" to make sure the premises was safe so that you and your family would not be unduly harmed. The landlord breached that duty of care, as he knew the porch and surrounding area were quite dangerous, and yet failed to take corrective action. That breach is referred to as negligence.

As a result, the landlord should be liable for your son's medical bills, and related damages. Damages can include your son's medical and therapy bills, your out-of-pocket expenses, your lost wages (if you have to take time off from work to care for the child), and for the child's pain and suffering. Here's a more in-depth look at everything you can claim for damages.

Seek the advice and counsel of a personal injury attorney. Most won't charge for an initial office consultation. Bring along copies of your son's medical bills, receipts for medications, and other out of pocket costs. Also take photographs of the premises, especially the area where your child fell, and the surrounding area. This is all part of the evidence your attorney will need to pursue the landlord.

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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