SW Legal studies in Business

Negligent Maintenance May Be Basis for Recovery for Damage to Health of Tenants
Description Delaware high court upheld a damage award to two tenants of an apartment building who were found to have suffered permanent health damage due to exposure to high levels of mold in the apartments that was caused by inadequate maintenance. Liability based on ordinary negligence may occur, which covers matters not included in the Landlord Tenant Code.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Landlord-Tenant; Negligence; Sanitation; Personal Injury
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Stroot and Watson were tenants at Haverford Place apartments in the early 1990s. They had continuing problems with water leaks and large amounts of mold in their apartments. Both suffered health deterioration while living there. Numerous complaints resulted in no action. Both had their health improve after they moved out. A microbiologist inspected Haverford, took air samples, and decided there was excessive mold growth due to numerous leaks and that the mold contamination posed a health risk to tenants. Experts testified that both suffered permanent health damage from the exposure to mold at Haverford. A jury awarded Stroot $1 million for personal injuries and Watson $40,000 for personal injuries, both less 22% for contributory negligence. The landlord appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. Landlords may be sued based on ordinary negligence. While the Landlord Tenant Code of the state regulates legal rights, remedies, and obligations of the parties to a rental agreement, it does not preclude suits for negligence. Expert testimony revealed the relationship between excessive mold in the apartments due to poor maintenance, and the health problems suffered by the plaintiffs. Given that expert testimony established that plaintiffs may have suffered permanent health damage, the awards were not excessive.

Citation New Haverford Partnership v. Stroot, 772 A.2d 792 (Sup. Ct., Del., 2001)

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