Sikora v. Wenzel

2000-Ohio-406, 88 Ohio St. 3d 493, 727 N.E.2d 1277

 

RULE:

A landlord's violation of the duties imposed by Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 5321.04(A)(1)(2) constitutes negligence per se, but a landlord will be excused from liability under either section if he neither knew nor should have known of the factual circumstances that caused the violation.

FACTS:

The court of appeals found that appellant could be held strictly liable for the collapse of the deck that injured appellee, under Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 5321.04(A)(1). Appellant argued that the violation of § 5321.04(A)(1) should be construed only as evidence of his negligence and therefore his lack of notice was crucial to determination of the breach of his duty of care. The court rejected appellee's argument that§ 5321.04(A)(1) imposed strict liability. The statutory requirement was stated with sufficient specificity to impose negligence per se.

ISSUE:

Does violation of R.C. 5321.04(A)(1) (failing to comply with the Ohio Basic Building Code) constitute negligence per se?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

In Shroades v. Rental Homes, Inc., supra, this court set forth the broad principle that landlords are subject to tort liability for violations of R.C. 5321.04. Having decided that issue, the court concluded that a landlord's failure to make repairs as required by R.C. 5321.04(A)(2) constitutes negligence per se, but that a landlord's notice of the condition causing the violation is a prerequisite to liability. The court of appeals here declined to apply this conclusion from Shroades to the instant violation of R.C. 5321.04(A)(1). The appellate court reasoned that no justification exists for the imposition of a notice requirement in a negligence per se context, and therefore held Wenzel strictly liable without regard to his lack of notice of the defect. Thus, the court held that  a landlord's violation of the duties imposed by R.C. 5321.04(A)(1) or 5321.04(A)(2) constitutes negligence per se, but a landlord will be excused from liability under either section if he neither knew nor should have known of the factual circumstances that caused the violation. To the extent that Shroades was ambiguous as to the source and nature of the notice requirement applicable to a violation of a statute imposing negligence per se, we clarify that standard by our decision here.

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