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A possessor of land who leases a part thereof and retains in his control any other part which is necessary to the safe use of the leased part, is subject to liability to his lessee and others lawfully upon the land with the consent of the lessee or a sublessee for physical harm caused by a dangerous condition upon that part of the land retained in the lessor's control, if the lessor by the exercise of reasonable care (a) could have discovered the condition and risk involved, and (b) could have made the condition safe.
Plaintiff tenant, an older lady, rented an apartment from the defendant landlords, which had a set of stairs from the back door that were steep, narrow, and without a handrail. The plaintiff fell on the stairs and sued the landlords for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the trial court should not have granted summary judgment for the landlords.
Was the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant landlords proper under the circumstances?
The court reversed the summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court noted that summary judgment was not appropriate if there was any evidence supporting the tenant's position and any genuine issue of material fact. Because the landlord retained the back stairs as part of a common area, the court concluded that the landlord was liable for any dangerous condition if the landlord could have discovered the condition and rendered it safe. The court determined that the summary judgment was not appropriate because there were triable issues as to the condition of the stairs and the landlords' duty with regard to the stairs.