Visitor Question

Can I be sued by tenant who hurt his back putting up a fence on my property?

Submitted By: Tom (Norfolk, Virginia USA)

A renter from one of my other properties was putting up a fence on another one of my rental properties, and even though he has no witness, he claimed a couple of days later that he hurt his back while lifting up a bag of concrete.

The strange thing is he told me the day before that he had hurt his back while throwing a heavy bag of laundry over his shoulder.

So he claims the next day when he got up it hurt so bad he went to the emergency room. They told him he would need an MRI to determine if any damage existed but they would not perform the MRI as he did not have insurance. He was referred to social services the next day to request financial assistance.

During the social services interview, he was told that the bag of clothes could not have caused his injury (Dr. Social Service) and suggested that he must have done something else. He stated that well he did work on a fence yesterday, so immediately they suggested that he go sue the homeowner as that would be the cause.

Now he is threatening to sue me if I evict him for non-payment of rent as he is also a tenant of mine. It did go to court and he dumped the back thing on the judge who immediately told him it was unrelated and gave me the judgment. It is now time to call the Sheriff to complete the eviction and he is threatening to sue me for his back injury if I evict him.

Virginia is a fault state with as little as 1% your fault may prevent a case. If he hurt his own back is he at fault, or is it my problem since he was on my property?

Any opinion as to what his chances of collecting would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Tom,

It sounds as though this is a trouble tenant who might sue you whether you evict him or not. The best thing for you to do is try, while difficult, to keep these causes of action separate.

You already have a judgment against him for unlawful detainer so that speaks for itself.

To avoid having this tenant essentially blackmail you for “rent” I would proceed with the sheriff and evict him.

From there, while it is possible that he will sue you for his back injuries, from what you have described he does not have a case. It will not take long before others realize the same.

Your homeowners insurance would likely deny the claim and defend you if this individual pushes it to litigation. At the end of the day, it may amount to more of a headache than a financial burden for you.

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

Best of luck,

Published: November 4, 2010

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