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PERSONAL INJURY LAW: CT Supreme Court holds jury must decide whether leaving concrete chunks in exterior common area was unreasonable

The plaintiff’s child who was hit on the head by an 18-pound piece of concrete taken by another child from among debris in the backyard of apartment building and dropped it from a third-floor balcony.  The plaintiffs’ suit against the landlord alleged negligence in failing to remove the loose concrete and other debris from the backyard of the apartment building.

The Superior Court entered summary judgment for the landlord.  The Appellate Court reversed and the Supreme Court now affirms the reversal. Noting that it was well established that a landlord owes a duty to maintain the common areas of an apartment building in a reasonably safe condition for the benefit of the tenants who reside in the building, the Court holds that injury was not so unforeseeable to preclude a jury trial on the negligence issue.

“[A]s long as harm of the general nature as that which occurred is foreseeable there is a basis for liability even though the manner in which the accident happens is unusual, bizarre or unforeseeable… [A]lthough a jury might find it not foreseeable that a ten year old child would carry a large [piece of concrete] up to a third floor balcony, throw it off, and hit someone below, defining the harm of the general nature in that way as a matter of law would be too specific; it would transform the general nature of the harm into the specific way in which the harm occurred. … In the present case, the defendant does not dispute that the risk of harm created by its failure to remove the buckets, trash, broken concrete pieces and other debris from the backyard was that children playing in the area might trip on them or throw them at other children. The types of injuries one would expect to result from this type of behavior run the gamut from cuts and bruises to broken bones, concussions and even fractured skulls. Adriana’s injuries, although severe, fall squarely along this continuum of harm. That they occurred in an unusual manner, namely, by a child dropping a piece of concrete into the backyard playground from a third floor balcony instead of throwing it while in the backyard, does not alter this fundamental fact.”

Ruiz v. Victory Properties, LLC, 315 Conn. 320 (January 20, 2015)