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REAL ESTATE AND THE LAW : Ornamental Birdbath Injures Tenant’s Child

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Ryann, a 1 1/2-year-old child, was injured when an ornamental birdbath fell over in the front yard of a home her parents rent. Ryann’s parents argued the landlords should be liable for the injuries because they should have known the birdbath created a dangerous condition.

Ryann’s mother, Selena, planted flowers around the birdbath and mowed the front lawn once a week. However, she never noticed the birdbath was loose, nor did she report any dangerous condition to the landlords.

The birdbath that fell on Ryann was in a grassy area where she frequently played with her two siblings. It was about three feet high and weighed about 50 pounds.

The landlords argued they had no notice the birdbath was loose or dangerous. It had been installed by previous owners of the house.

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If you were the judge, would you hold the landlords negligently liable for the injuries to Ryann?

The judge said no.

“To hold a landlord liable for a defective condition upon the premises, a plaintiff must show that the landlord had either actual or constructive notice of the condition for a sufficient period of time to have corrected it,” the judge explained.

In this situation, there is no evidence Ryann’s parents noticed the birdbath was loose, although they planted flowers and mowed the lawn nearby, the judge emphasized, nor did the landlords have the opportunity to observe a dangerous condition.

Since the alleged defect could not be readily observed, nor did the landlords have notice of the defect, there is no liability for negligence, the judge ruled, as he dismissed the case.

Based on the 1993 U.S. District Court decision in DeMarco vs. Bansal, 826 Fed. Supp. 785.


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