Tenant Not Responsible for Visitor's Injury

June 16, 2009
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Facts: A husband and wife filed sued the major tenant and the property manager of a medical office building after the husband was allegedly injured when the automatic doors at the entrance struck and caused him to fall. The husband, who was 78 years old at the time, had difficulty walking and required the assistance of a walker. After finishing his doctor’s appointment, he waited in the lobby while his wife went to get the car. However, instead of continuing to wait for his wife, the husband exited the building without her assistance. The doors opened automatically as he approached the front door of the medical office building, but as he was walking through the doorway with the assistance of his walker, the doors began to close. As a result of his fall, he sustained a head injury, a broken hip, and related injuries. The husband and wife alleged that both the tenant and the property management company failed to maintain, inspect, and repair the doors and to warn them of the dangers existing at the office building. A circuit court dismissed the claims against the tenant and the property management company. The couple appealed.

Decision: A Tennessee appellate court confirmed the trial court’s decision.

Reasoning: The court agreed that the tenant owed no duty to the husband and wife, and that the company did not create the alleged dangerous or defective condition, and that it did not have knowledge that a dangerous or defective condition existed. The court reasoned that essentially the tenant had no contractual duty to maintain or repair the automatic doors at the entrance to the office building. And, although the property management company for a building can be held liable for negligence in allowing a dangerous or defective condition to exist, the court concluded that there was no evidence that the property management company had created a dangerous situation.

n Roy S. Lawrence v. HCA Health Services of Tennessee, Inc., August 2008.