Two Broken Ankles from Fall Outside My Townhome...

by Lynn
(St Louis, MO)

I own a town home. There was a hole in the common ground outside my unit. I had asked the ground crew to take care of it more than 3 times but it hadn't been done. I walked out my front door on April 28, 2010 not thinking about the hole.

I caught my foot in the hole and fell, breaking both ankles. I called out and my neighbors found me and I was taken to the Emergency Room.

I was on long term disability for 3 plus months and in a rehab facility for 2 months. Before I left to come home I called the property management company and told them of my fall, after the hole not being filled in. My friends and neighbors saw my footprint in the hole where I had tripped. I told the property mgmt company I believed it was their fault.

I called a neighbor to check the hole and take a picture before they filled it up. This neighbor called me 2 minutes later stating the hole had just been filled up. I still didn't feel as if I should pay my unit management fees due to their negligence, and they threatened to take me to court.

I was called by the insurance for the property stating that I had no suit since I was part owner (I haven't seen documents stating this).

I agreed to pay back payments for the fees since I didn't want to be taken to court and certainly not if I didn't have a case. This was in April 2011. II then found out I need to have another (3rd) surgery on one of the injured ankles.

I am still making payments on the past due months and now the property management company wants to collect the rest I owe as well as fees for all of 2012.

That's what prompted me to start reading about legal representation. The hole is once more starting to wash away again. I need more surgery and physically will never be the same, and I have expended time off from work. I need input and direction. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Two Broken Ankles from Fall Outside My Townhome...":

Lynn (St. Louis, MO)

You present a complicated set of facts covering several legal issues. Before you consider legal action against the property managers, turn to your own homeowners policy. Your homeowners policy may cover your injuries.

If you have a mortgage on the property there is a good likelihood you own a liability insurance policy. If you don't you can be confident the mortgage company, the "mortgager" owns one for you (and themselves).

That's because mortgage companies seldom make substantial home loans without being sure the property they are about to loan money on is fully insured. The reason for doing so is to protect their best interests.

For instance, if someone is injured on your property and they file suit and take a judgment against the property, that judgment would be what is considered a "cloud" on the title. That would mean if you defaulted on your loan and the mortgage company repossessed your property, there would be a lien on the property. Mortgage companies do not like "clouds" on the title to their property.

So make sure you exhaust those possibilities before moving on.

The next issue you present is more interesting. If in fact you do "co-own" the property with the management company, then you will have some partial liability for your injuries. An owner of a piece of property can be liable for injuries sustained on that property.

The next issue is the withholding of monthly homeowners fees. DO NOT do that. You do not have any legal right to do so. Unless your Homeowners Agreement permits the withholding of fees (and it assuredly does not), the issues of the payment of homeowners fees is separate and distinct form any liability issues you may have with the management company.

Read your homeowners insurance policy, your Deed, and the Deed of Trust Agreement between the mortgage company and yourself. In it may be some language about assuming liability for injuries sustained on the property.

Your final resort is to sue the management company. Don't do that until you have exhausted all of your other options.

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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