John M. Kirby
Recent Case -- Landlord Liability -- Assault
A landlord (of residential property) in North Carolina has a duty to render the premises safe for the tentants. The extent of that duty is not clear.
In a recent case, Davenport v. D.M. Rental Properties, Inc., (November 15, 2011), the plaintiff was a tenant at the defendant's trailer park.
The plaintiff was assaulted by another man, who was another tenant at the trailer park. The plaintiff sustained severe burn injuries. He then sued the owner of the trailer park, as the landlord. He contended that the landlord was negligentin renting a lot to the assailant, in failing to evict the assailant, and in failing to use appropriate security measures (such as lighting).
The lower court dismissed the case, and the appellate court affirmed. As for leasing property to the assailant, the court concluded that the landlord did not have a duty to screen the tenants. The court also rejected the argument that the landlord had a duty to evict the assailant, because his conduct prior to this particular assault did not render this assault foreseeable. As for the inadequate security measures, the court found that these measures would not have prevented this assault. The court noted that the assailant was intoxicated, he was "talking in tongue," and he looked like "the devil himself." The assailant had not been deterred by the victim's threats to call the police
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