August 31, 2020

Washington Supreme Court Reinstates Verdict in Favor of Injured Guest

After a night of drinking with friends, a woman fell from the second-story balcony of her boyfriend's apartment when its decayed balcony railing gave way. She sued the owner of the apartments, arguing that its failure to maintain and repair that railing caused her fall and violated its duties to tenants and their guests. A jury agreed. The Washington Court of Appeals overturned the jury's verdict. The Washington Supreme Court reversed that ruling and reinstated the jury's verdict in favor of the injured woman. 

The Court decided that the owner of the apartments was negligent because its breach of its common law duty to provide each of its tenants and their guests with a habitable residence was a proximate cause of the woman's injury. As the Court stated in a previous opinion: "When American city dwellers, both rich and poor, seek 'shelter' today, they seek a well known package of goods and services: a package which includes not merely walls and ceilings, but adequate heat, light, and ventilation, serviceable plumbing facilities, secure windows and doors, proper sanitation, and proper maintenance." 

Washington condominium and homeowners associations are legally obligated to ensure that the common areas for which they are responsible are maintained, repaired, and replaced in a timely manner and in accordance with professional guidance.