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Premises Liability and Contributory Negligence

            It may be every landlord’s worst fear.  They decide to finally splurge and repaint a stairway, but unbeknownst to them the paint they choose gets very slick after a rain and someone falls, injuring themselves.  Next, the landlord is served with a lawsuit claiming they were negligent.  Fortunately, on June 18, 2013, the North Carolina Court of Appeals reiterated two important legal principles regarding the extent a landlord will be found liable to an injured third party.  First, whether or not the premises adhered to the relevant building codes and the whether the landlord had notice of a dangerous condition are only probative inquiries, and will not solely determine negligence on the part of the landlord.  The real issue to be considered is whether the landlord lived up to the standard of reasonable care, a determination that should be made by a jury. 

            Second, in North Carolina contributory negligence on the part of the injured party will operate as a bar to recovery, at least where ordinary negligence is present.  Therefore, if the injured party were themselves at fault, the landlord should be protected.

            In reaffirming these principles the Court of Appeals has assured that summary judgment will rarely be appropriate in negligence cases, and landlord’s will continue to be able to present evidence to a jury refuting their negligence, and presenting evidence that the injured party was contributorily negligent.

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