by: Patrick A. Randolph, Jr.
Professor of Law
UMKC School of Law
LANDLORD/TENANT; LANDLORD'S LIABILITY FOR INJURY TO TENANT'S; CONTROL OF PROPERTY: The mere fact that landlord does not own strip of land adjacent to its property is not sufficient to allow landlord a right of summary judgment for plaintiff's injuries on such strip if landlord may have exercised control over such strip and therefore had a potential duty to warn tenant or to protect tenant from hazard in question.
Alcraz v. Veche, 929 P.2d 1239 (Cal. 1997).
Plaintiff was injured when he stepped on an electric box located on the lawn in front of the rental property owned by landlord. Landlord was granted summary judgment at the district court level because the electric box was not on landlord's property but instead on an adjacent strip owned by the City. The appellate court reversed and the California Supreme Court upheld such reversal of summary judgment. The California Supreme Court noted that evidence had been presented that the landlord maintained the entire lawn including the area owned by the City, and that landlord had constructed a fence around and area which included the City-owned portion. The court held that the mere fact that Landlord did not own the property was not the proper test to determine whether landlord was entitled to summary judgment. The proper test instead is whether landlord maintained the land that was within his control or possession in a reasonably safe condition. There were many open issues as to whether such land had been maintained in a safe condition, or whether landlord had a duty to warn tenant of any hazardous conditions. However, the mere fact that landlord did not own the property in question was not sufficient to grant summary judgment.
Comment: This case, which affirms a case reported earlier, has the unusual feature of a landowner being liable for the condition of property other than the landlord's own. For a case imposing liability on a tenant for the condition of property outside of the leased premises, see Coblentz v. Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union Welfare Fund, 925 P.2d 496 (Nev. 1996) (The Daily Development for 5/5/97).
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