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Multiple Parties May Be Liable in a Deck Collapse Case

Premises liability can arise in a commercial setting, such as a store or office building. However, it can also be born of a private setting, such as at someone's home.

Private homes often enjoy company and festivities, and nothing makes for a greater time during a gathering of friends and family like a deck party. However, in the very dangerous and unfortunate event that the deck collapses under the weight of the party-goers, a good time can turn to serious injury and even death.

When a party guest suffers injury in a deck collapse

Who is potentially liable if a deck collapses? A recent case reported by Professional Deck Builder involved injury to a woman who shattered her leg after the deck she was on collapsed. In that case, tenants were renting the home where the deck was. The injured woman was there by invitation to the tenants' party. The owners of the home had utilized the services of a property management company in the renting out of the home.

The deck was over 30 years old. The contractor who repaired the deck after the collapse testified that there was rotten deck wood and an improperly attached deck.

Three defendants

The defendants in the case included:

  • Owner of the home
  • The homeowner's property management company
  • The tenants

The plaintiff's lawyer argued that the owner and the property management company had a duty to inspect the deck prior to renting it out, to determine if it was safe. A defense attorney for the owners and the property management company argued that the tenants had a superior reason to know of the lack of safety of the deck because they had lived with it for two-and-a-half years.

Jury verdict

The jury ended up awarding half a million dollars in damages. It apportioned liability for those damages among some but not all of the defendants. In this case, the jury found that the property management company had no liability at all. The homeowner retained 85 percent of the fault while the tenant was 15 percent at fault.

This case illustrates the complex nature of some premises liability lawsuits. If you have suffered injuries due to the negligence of a property owner, get legal advice as soon as possible.

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