Tenant wants to file a back injury claim after digging?

by Charles
(Huachuca City, AZ)

A sewer line was backed up so the tenant decided to dig with a shovel to find the line. I'm not sure how much digging he did before he rented a back hoe machine to finish the job.

He now claims that the manual labor he did aggravated a pre-existing back condition causing him to seek professional medical care. Can he file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against me for that for that? He did the work without me asking him to do it. This seems like a fraudulent claim. What are my rights as the landlord? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Tenant wants to file a back injury claim after digging?":

Charles (Huachuca City, AZ):

From the facts you present, your tenant does not have the basis of a legitimate personal injury claim. At best, your tenant can file a claim with his or her own health insurance company.

Landlords have a "legal duty of care" to take all reasonable action to make the premises (property) safe for all persons legally upon the property. When by omission or commission a landlord fails to take all reasonable action to make the premises safe, and as a result a tenant or other person legally upon the property is injured, the landlord is said to have "breached his or her legal duty of care."

That breach is referred to as negligence. When that negligence becomes the proximate cause of the person's injuries, the landlord becomes liable for the injured person's damages.

You state the sewer backed up. In this case, whether or not you acted quickly enough to repair the sewer problem does not constituent negligence. Moreover, there doesn't appear to be any emergency which would have required the tenant to dig. It is unlikely your tenant will be able to find an attorney who will accept his or her case.

From the facts you present, your tenant's only recourse would be to file a small claims case against you. If he does, you can defend the case yourself, or retain an attorney to represent you. In any event, it is very likely the tenant's case will be dismissed.

The State of Arizona enacted the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. The Act sets out the law regarding "dwelling units" and the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. It would be a good idea for you to review the specifics of the Act.

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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