ADRIANA RUIZ et al. v. VICTORY PROPERTIES, LLC, SC 18997

Judicial District of New Britain

 

†††† †Negligence; Whether Landlord Owed a Duty of Care to Tenant Because Harm to Tenant was Reasonably Forseeable. †The plaintiff mother and her minor daughter brought this negligence action against the owner and landlord of the apartment building where they lived.† The plaintiffs alleged that the seven year old daughter sustained serious injuries while playing in the backyard when a ten year old boy picked up a rock, carried it to his family's third-floor apartment, and threw it from a window or balcony, hitting her on the head.† The plaintiffs claimed that the landlord failed to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition because trash, rocks and broken concrete pieces were present in the backyard.† The trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding that the defendant owed no duty of care to the plaintiffs because the specific consequences of its conduct in leaving the debris in the backyard were not reasonably foreseeable.† The Appellate Court (135 Conn. App. 119) reversed the trial court's judgment.† In reaching its decision, the court explained that in order to establish the element of duty, the focus of the inquiry is not on the exact manner in which the harm occurred but on whether the general nature of the harm suffered was foreseeable.† The court opined that, here, the inquiry regarding foreseeability should have depended on whether a reasonable landlord, knowing that dangerous debris was present in a common area where children were known to play, would be able to foresee that a child would get hurt by a large rock thrown by another child.† It found that the general harm was not too remote to be reasonably foreseeable and, therefore, that the foreseeability inquiry should have been left to the jury.† Further, the court found that imposing a duty of care on the defendant under the circumstances here was not inconsistent with public policy.† Finally, the Appellate Court found that the trial court improperly relied on the doctrine of superseding cause in ruling as it did because it was undisputed that the actions of the boy who threw the rock were neither intentional nor criminal and where application of the doctrine seemingly foreclosed the plaintiffs from recovery merely because another party may have subsequently contributed to the plaintiff childís injury.† The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court properly reversed the trial courtís granting of summary judgment in favor of the defendant landlord.