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Landlord Escapes Getting Taken to the Cleaners Over Fall
by Ron Davis

The delay of a tenant in reporting a leaky toilet has allowed his Louisiana shopping center landlord to avoid a negligence lawsuit.

The shopping center, located in Metairie, had leased space to the tenant for the operation of a self-service laundry. And the leaky toilet was the likely cause of an injury to a customer of the laundry.

The customer had visited the laundry needing to use one of its commercial-type washing machines for a large bedding item he wanted to clean. But those machines were located in a special section in the rear of the laundry.

That required the customer to walk down a dark hallway adjacent to a restroom. In doing so, he slipped and fell when he stepped in a puddle of water that had apparently leaked into the hallway from the restroom.

The customer’s resulting injuries from the fall required neck surgery and treatment for a herniated disc in his back. He subsequently sued both the laundry tenant and the tenant’s shopping center landlord, charging negligence on their part.

The shopping center owner argued, however, that the tenant had never reported a problem with the toilet. And under Louisiana law, a property owner is not responsible for a hazardous condition on premises leased to a tenant unless the owner knows of the hazard “or has received notice of its existence and fails to remedy it within a reasonable time.” And the tenant admitted that he had never complained to the shopping center owner of any defect concerning the laundry’s toilet or any of the other plumbing on his leased premises.

A Louisiana court therefore ruled in favor of the shopping center owner, explaining, “The only evidence the tenant can point to is that there was water on the floor. Nevertheless, this does not prove a defect for which a landlord would be liable or that the landlord knew or should have known of an alleged defect.” (Marcades v. Cleanerama, Inc., 831 So.2d 288 [La.App. 4 Cir. 2002])

Decision: October 2002
Published: January 2003



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