Apartment complex liable for injury to tenant’s guest caused by exterior stairway collapse

Property owners have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect people who visit their properties and to maintain safe and secure conditions. If an owner fails in this responsibility and someone is injured, they can be held accountable under an area of the law referred to as "premises liability."

The recent Texas Court of Appeals case of Treimee Corporation v. Garcia provides an example.

A stairway collapses

The apartment complex in this case consisted of 212 units managed by a property management company. At the time of the events giving rise to this action, the victim was visiting a woman who lived in one of the apartments. The apartment, which was located on the second floor, was only accessible by an outer stairway. The stairway's metal structure held a concrete platform midway up the flight of stairs.

As the victim began descending the stairway to leave the woman's apartment, the concrete platform cracked, and he slipped through the broken concrete and landed in the patio below. The victim sustained a hand laceration and back injury as a result of his fall.

At the conclusion of trial, the jury found in favor of the victim and awarded him damages for physical pain and mental anguish, and for medical expenses. The property management company appealed, arguing, among other issues, that there was insufficient evidence showing that the company had actual or constructive knowledge of the premises defect.

Did the owner have knowledge of the conditions?

The Texas Court of Appeals, in reviewing the case, noted that an owner having actual or constructive knowledge of a condition was, indeed, one of the elements necessary for a victim to prevail on a premises liability claim.

At trial, the jury saw several photos depicting the stairway and the collapsed concrete platform. The photos showed decay of the metal support structure that held the concrete platform. In addition, the woman who lived in the apartment testified that she had complained to management on two separate occasions that the stairs were rusted and wobbly. Finally, the victim testified that the stairway shook and that the upper flight of stairs was barely attached to the metal platform. Even the property management company, in their brief, conceded that "some parts of the staircase were rusted."

The jury saw photos and heard testimony regarding the rusted and deteriorated condition of that metal structure. Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that the company knew or should have known of the dangerous condition that caused the victim's personal injuries, and the jury's verdict in favor of the victim was upheld.

The compensation you deserve

If you or a loved one is seriously injured due to poorly maintained premises, you need a personal injury attorney with extensive knowledge of the duties of property owners. Seek an attorney who will work diligently to help you obtain the compensation you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses.