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PREMISES LIABILITY: Trial Court erred in refusing Plaintiff’s request for jury instructions relating to non-delegable duty to maintain the premises in reasonably safe condition

This action arose from a slip and fall premises liability suit. The plaintiff was a tenant in the defendant landlord’s building when she slipped on an exterior staircase of the apartment building. Her chief allegation was that the defendant was negligent in failing to keep the stairs free of dirt and sand, and in allowing the surface of the steps to become worn and uneven. The defendant testified that he would spread salt and sand on the staircase and that he would remove snow from the steps, but that no one ever returned to sweep the debris off the stairs. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. On appeal, the plaintiff claimed that the trial court improperly denied her jury instruction that the possessor of real property has a nondelegable duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court pursuant o the general verdict rule. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the court reversed the judgment and remands the case. the court could consider the plaintiff’s claim that the trial court erred in the jury instructions. On remand, the Appellate Court holds that the trial court erred in failing to instruct on the property owner’s nondelegable duty. It finds that the plaintiff’s suggested jury instruction was relevant to the issues in the case, an accurate statement of the law, and was properly corroborated by evidence at trial. “During trial, Robert Cohen testified that he hired individuals to assist him in removing snow from the plaintiff’s steps and in spreading salt and sand on them. On its face, that testimony implicates the nondelegable duty doctrine because Robert Cohen testified that there were individuals performing maintenance work on the rear exterior staircase. Thus, he raised the issue, by implication, of whether he or the others may have been responsible for the claimed defect. It is well fixed in our decisional law, however, that the defendants cannot shift legal responsibility to others when someone is injured due to the condition of property owned and controlled by the defendants.” Garcia v. Cohen, Connecticut Appellate Court, Docket No. AC 41079, (April 20, 2021).