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Is an Apartment Owner Liable for a Tenant who Falls While Trying to Climb Onto Their Balcony?

A tenant locked himself out of his apartment.  Because of the hour, he could not get assistant from the managers of the building and decided to find his own, creative, way into the apartment.  He took the stairs to the roof of the building and attempted to drop from the roof to his top floor apartment balcony.  Unfortunately, he fell and landed on the ground, injuring himself.

The tenant brought a personal injury action against the owner of the apartment complex, alleging negligence and premises liability.  The apartment owner filed for summary judgment arguing that they did not own the tenant a duty of care due to the “highly unforeseeable” actions of the tenant and/or that his OWN negligence was the sole cause of his injuries.

The injured tenant appealed.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed and remanded the case for trial.

The Court of Appeal stated:

“under the circumstances—including that he was unable to seek assistance from an onsite property manager or call a 24-hour emergency number—the practical necessity of entering his locked apartment made it foreseeable he might try to access his apartment through the balcony from the roof of the building, despite any obvious risk involved, to get into his home at night.”

Razoumovitch v. 726 Hudson Ave., LLC (May 12, 2023, No. B316606) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2023 Cal. App. LEXIS 370, at *18-19]. [emphasis added].

Ultimately the Court held:

  1. Under the default rule that each person has a duty to exercise, in his or her activities, reasonable care for the safety of others, Civ. Code, § 1714, defendants owed their tenant a duty of care. And because they (mis)applied the Rowland factors to the specific facts of the case—focusing on the circumstances that led to the tenant’s fall from the roof (his decision to hang from its edge, his attempt to drop onto his balcony), defendants did not establish that the case fell into an entire category of cases warranting a departure from the general duty rule;
  2. As to proximate cause, the tenant created a triable issue by stating in his declaration that, had defendants not breached their duty of care to him by, for example, not having an on-site property manager or an alarm on the roof-access door, he would not have gone onto the roof on the night of his injury.

It’s an interesting application of the law, especially as it relates to the foreseeability of this injury/occurrence.  It will be interesting to see how the case turns out on remand – if the jury agrees that this set of circumstances was foreseeable.

If you or a loved one have been injured due to the negligence of a property owner, call the experienced premises liability lawyers at Heiting & Irwin at (951) 682-6400 or visit us at

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