Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Landlord Owes a Duty to a Tenant’s Guest to Provide Adequate Lighting

Attorney Frederick M. Lombardi provides the following update on an Ohio Supreme Court case concerning landlord liability:

On February 12, 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court in the case of Mann v. Northgate Investors, LLC, held that a landlord owes a duty to a tenant’s guest under Ohio Revised Code 5321.04(A)(3) where the defendant negligently failed to maintain “adequate lighting for safe ingress and egress” during nighttime hours.  The facts are that the hallway and stairway were unlit, and existing lighting fixtures were not operable; the plaintiff descending the stairs and thinking there may be one other step, stumbled forward through a glass panel adjacent to the glass exit door, suffering her injuries.

The Code section provides that the landlord owes the statutory duty to “…keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition….”  The court held that breach of that duty constitutes negligence per se.

This case arose pursuant to a certified conflict between the Tenth District Court of Appeals, from which this appeal was taken, and the Ninth District Court of Appeals case of Shumaker v. Park Lane Manor of Akron, Inc. (Summit No. 25212, 2011-Ohio-1052) regarding the applicability of this Code section to a tenant’s guest.