Connecticut Premises Liability: The Element of Control

For a Connecticut defendant to be liable in a premises liability "fall down case", the defendant must first be in control of the area where the defect exists. A recent case which discussed this very rudimentary premises liabilty rule was Mercado v Hawkins, 54 CLR 419. In Hawkins, a condominium unit owner leased out a condo unit to a tenant. The plaintiff's personal injuries occurred in a common area of the condominium complex. The condominium complex condo association controlled the common area to the exclusion of the unit owner/landlord. The unit owner had no liability for the injuries that incurred to the tenant in the common area of the complex. Hence, the unit owner who leased his condo to the tenant was not found liable to the tenant for injuries which were the result of a defect in a common area. In Hawkins, the condominium association controlled the common area to the exclusion of the unit owner and landlord.

In some cases control seems fairly straight forward. In other cases it may be more complex such as in a commercial shopping plaza or commercial high rise vacation rental property where there exists multiple leases, multiple tenants and a management company. Often, there is a dispute about whether the area in question is a common area. There can sometimes be dual control where more than one defendant may be liable for a defect. Sometimes control can be assumed by a party for a period of time such as in a construction premises liability case.

If you have fallen or have beeen injured at a construction site, store, shopping plaza or mall which was the result of a defect, the first fundamental issue which must be explored is what legal entity was in control of the area where the defect existed. This will often require detailed factual exploration and investigation by a diligent Stamford personal injury attorney with his battery on investigators and engineers.

Regards, Peter Rotatori, III


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