In a recent case, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Virginia premises liability lawsuit addressing a previously unanswered question regarding the duty a vacation home owner owes to short-term guests. The case may prove instructive to homeowners dealing with Washington, D.C. premises liability cases. The court in this case ultimately concluded that the arrangement to rent a vacation home, even for a short period of time, more closely resembles the relationship between a landlord and a tenant than it does an innkeeper and a guest.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendants owned a home in Virginia Beach. The defendants would rent the home out to vacationers between May and October. During those months, the defendants used a property management company to handle the day-to-day duties associated with maintaining the home, including cleaning the house which was only done in between stays. The home was rented fully furnished.
The plaintiff’s family rented the defendants’ vacation home for a week. The plaintiff checked in at the property management office and was provided linens. As the plaintiff was carrying a bin of linens through the house, she tripped on a raised strip of wood that was used as a transition between carpet and tile. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff seriously injured her elbow, which later required two surgeries.
The main issue in the case was the extent of the duty that the defendants owed to the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that the defendants owed her a duty equivalent to that which an innkeeper owes to a guest. This duty would require a defendant to “take every reasonable precaution to protect the person and property of their guests and boarders.”
The defendants argued that they owed the plaintiff a duty akin to that which a landlord owes a tenant. This would result in a lesser duty of care, and would only require the defendants warn guests of known hazards that may not be apparent to guests.
The court determined that the agreement between the parties more closely resembled the relationship between a landlord and a tenant, and rejected the plaintiff’s claim. The court explained that determining factor in what type of duty a landowner owes to a lessee is the level of control the landowner maintains over the property.
Here, the court noted that the defendants remained off-site while the home was rented, were not permitted into the home while it was occupied, collected a security deposit from each renter. The court explained that each of these facts likened the arrangement to a landlord/tenant relationship, rather than an innkeeper/guest relationship.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience representing injury victims in all types of cases across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. We offer free consultations to accident victims to discuss their cases and explain what we can do to help. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor in Recent Personal Injury Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 16, 2018
Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Premises Liability Case against Ski Resort, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 2, 2018