February 25, 2019

A Cup of Joe | Landlord Sued By Tenant Whose Son Shoveled Snow for Landlord

This week’s case introduces us to a mother and her son who rented a nice little house in a peaceful neighborhood on Staten Island. They had a very nice relationship with their landlord, an older gentleman who lived in another house.  One day, Roselle asked her landlord, Demetrius, whether he would like her son Joseph to shovel snow at property where they lived in exchange for pay. Demetrius was happy and agreed to pay Joseph for his snow removal services. Joseph was happy to be making extra money. So they began a routine: At the time of each snowfall, Roselle would contact Demetrius by text to confirm whether he wanted Joseph to shovel the property where they lived. All communications about the snow shoveling work to be performed and the compensation to be paid was solely by text between Roselle and Demetrius.

Then, on a cold day in March, in anticipation of a snowfall, the landlord asked  Roselle to purchase salt and confirmed that Joseph would shovel. The next day it snowed. Joseph purchased salt and shoveled the paved walkway and sidewalk area of the property. He did not shovel a slate landing immediately outside of the front door of the property, as it was enclosed and covered by a roof overhang. After he finished shoveling, Joseph put salt on the paved walkway where he had shoveled.

The next morning, Roselle was leaving the house.  When she returned home after a few hours Roselle fell as she stepped from the slate landing onto the paved walkway, injuring her ankle.  Roselle sued Demetrius, her landlord for negligent maintenance! Roselle’s landlord then sued Joseph arguing that Joseph was negligent in his snow removal performance.

Is Joseph responsible? The general rule is that a limited contractual obligation to provide snow removal services does not render Joseph liable for his mother’s injuries. There are exceptions. Joseph would have been responsible if it was proved that he failed to exercise reasonable care when removing the snow and ice,

Is the Landlord responsible? The rule is that a property owner will be held liable for a slip-and-fall involving snow and ice on its property only when it created the alleged dangerous condition or had actual or constructive notice of it.

Roselle’s case was dismissed because her attorneys were unable to prove that the hazardous condition was created either by the landlord or by Joseph.

Three relationships suffered as a result of this suit: Demetrius was mad at Roselle. Joseph was mad at his mom. Roselle was mad at her lawyers for losing.

Here is the case: Mann v. Zougras http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_01068.htm

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