Bowles v. Mahoney

91 U.S. App. D.C. 155, 202 F.2d 320 (1952)



Absent any statutory or contract duty, the lessor is not responsible for any injury resulting from a defect which developed during the term of the lease.


Due to injuries resulting from a collapse of a retaining wall on the leased property built by the owner/lessor, plaintiff (Mahoney, a nephew of the lessee) sued defendant owner and defendant city. Plaintiff alleged that defendant owner (Bowles) erected the retaining wall with the consent of defendant city and that defendants' negligence and failure to keep the wall in good repair caused the injuries. Defendants' motions for a directed verdict were denied and the jury found for plaintiff. Defendants appealed.


Does a lessor have a duty to repair defects that develop after a lease is executed?




It is settled law that where the owner of premises, by lease, parts with the entire possession and control of the premises, and the tenant, either by express provision of the lease or by the silence of the lease on that subject, assumes liability for the keeping of the premises in proper repair, the tenant, and not the owner, will be liable in case of an accident due to negligence in allowing the premises, or any portion thereof, to get out of repair. This court found that, where defect arose during the term of the lease, it was the tenant's duty to maintain the wall in good condition; and that since plaintiff, tenant's invitee, stood in his right, defendant owner and defendant city owed plaintiff no duty and was not liable for the injuries. The decision denying defendants' motions for directed verdict and finding in favor of plaintiff in a torts action resulting from the collapse of a retaining wall was REVERSED and REMANDED with instructions to set aside the verdict and the judgment and to enter judgment in favor of defendants.

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