Luke Dow Law Firm


By Luke Dow on October 05, 2015

A premises liability accident can occur at an apartment, on a stairway, on the sidewalk in a strip mall, and sometimes it happens at a circus. The Texas Court of Appeals decided a case in 2011, Jensen v. Southwest Rodeo, L.P., that dealt with just that-a circus. But the principles outlined by the court extend to other premises liability situations as well.The circus came to town

The owner of an arena and events center leased the facility to a charitable organization for a fund raising event-a circus actually. An attendee at the event tripped, fell down the arena stairs, and suffered serious injuries. Since the stairs were owned by the arena, the injured woman brought suit against the owners for negligence and premises liability.

The court outlines the law

The arena owner sought to dismiss the suit on the grounds that, as a matter of law, it had no duty to someone attending an event sponsored by someone who had leased the facility, regardless of whether the condition was dangerous or not. The court agreed, noting that the general rule that a lessor has no duty to tenants or their guests for dangerous conditions on the leased premises. This rule is based on the principle that a lessor relinquishes possession and control of the premises to the lessee. But as is the case with many general rules of law, there are exceptions. One exception is when a landlord undertakes to make repairs, the landlord may be found liable for injuries suffered if the repairs were done negligently. Another exception applies when a landlord conceals defects on the leased premises of which the lessor was aware and an injury is suffered as a result. A final exception would hold the landlord liable for injuries which occurred on a portion of the premises that still remained under the control of the landlord.

The person that suffered the injuries at the circus argued that the owner in fact had its' employees serve as ushers during the event and therefore exercised control, but the court decided that this was not sufficient; nor does a right of re-entry common in lease agreements provide sufficient control. The court emphasized that the retained-control exemption is applicable, generally, to areas kept and maintained by the landlord for the benefit and use of the public and/or multiple tenants. Since no individual tenant controls the common area, the landlord remains in control. It is this exemption that creates liability by a landlord for the stairways and parking lots in apartment complexes and sidewalks and parking lots in strip malls.

Hold-harmless language may not control

The liability issue of a landlord may be complicated by language in a lease that purports to exempt him or her from liability or have the tenant hold the landlord harmless, so for anyone injured on the premises of another it is vital that they seek the immediate advice of an experienced Texas personal injury attorney. Do not believe a landlord when he or she says: "not my problem."

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