Premises Liability — $203,000 Recovery for Injured Tenant Negligence Claim, Landlord-Tenant Liability, and Statutory Claims
Brief Statement of Claim: Tenant was badly injured due to his apartment ceiling’s collapse. Premises liability, landlord liability.
Principal Injuries (in order of severity): Nerve and subcutaneous damage to right ankle and foot, resulting in 25 percent Permanent Partial Disability rating and scarring; aggravation/exacerbation of pre-existing mental condition.
Special Damages: Medical bills $22,000; lost wages $12,789
Tried or settled: Mediated settlement
County where tried or settled: Durham
Case Name and number: *Confidential, to protect client’s interests*
Date Concluded: May 9, 1996
Name of Mediator: Lacy M. Presnell, Raleigh, NC
Amount: $105,000 lump sum payment; unencumbered real property deed to plaintiff; $450 per month for the greater of plaintiff’s lifetime or 15 years; present value of $203,305
Expert Witnesses and areas of expertise: Greg Georgiade, M.D., Duke University Medical Center, plastic surgeon (Durham).
Lead Plaintiff’s Lawyer: Philip A. Mullins, IV, Thomas, Ferguson & Mullins, LLP, (Durham), 919-682-5648, fax 919-688-7251
Description of Case, the Evidence Presented, the Arguments Made, and/or Others Useful Information: The plaintiff, a residential tenant in low-income housing, sued a property management company and owner after the tenant’s ceiling collapsed. He alleged gross negligence in repairing the property under common law and gross negligence in failing to maintain the property in a fit and habitable condition as required by the North Carolina Residential Rental Agreements Act, G.S. § 42-38 et seq. The plaintiff maintained that violations of the statute resulted in joint and several liability of the manager and the property owner. In 1990 a portion of the living room ceiling collapsed. The manager’s repairman patched the hole but did not repair the remaining portion of the ceiling or make any repairs to the roof. In August 1994, a different portion of the same ceiling collapsed on the plaintiff, resulting in a de-gloving injury to his right foot and ankle. The defendants denied that both collapses occurred as a result of water damage due to a leaking roof. From 1991 until the second collapse, the plaintiff made several complaints and requested that the defendants inspect the ceiling’s condition and make necessary repairs. The defendants denied that such complaints were made and disclaimed any liability. They maintained there was never a leak in the roof and that the ceiling just collapsed. They alleged contributory negligence and initially made an offer of $50,000 which was withdrawn during discovery. Prior to obtaining his disability rating from Dr. Georgiade, two other treating physicians at Duke University Medical Center wrote that the plaintiff could return to work without restrictions in October 1994. The defendants maintained that all lost wages after October 1994 were solely due to the plaintiff’s pre-existing mental condition and were unrelated to the 1994 accident. The defendant’s position regarding special damages resulting from the accident was as follows: medical bills for foot/ankle injury, approximately $10,000; lost wages from Aug. 17, 1994 through Oct. 17, 1994, $1,770.
Amount Actually Recovered for Client: 100% recovery, ie., Present value of $203,305: $105,000 lump sum payment; unencumbered real property deed to plaintiff; and $450 per month for the greater of plaintiff’s lifetime or 15 years.