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Action for damages. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Banke.
HALL, Judge.
A landlord owes to a social invitee of his tenant the duty to exercise ordinary care to keep a stairway leading into the tenant's apartment in repair and free of defective construction.
The plaintiff appeals from the judgment sustaining the defendant's general demurrer to her petition. These facts are alleged in the petition: The plaintiff was a tenant in a downstairs apartment of a house owned by the defendant. The house had a back porch with a stairway leading into an upstairs apartment, which was the only means of ingress and egress to that apartment. The normal and proper inclination of such a stairway is not more than 45 0, and this stairway had an inclination of more than 45 0, which with its other defective conditions made it inherently dangerous. The stairway was in a generally deteriorating condition; at places the covering was worn through and nails extended upward so that one's shoe could catch on them. The defendant knew the stairway had no handrails, had poor illumination and that it was difficult to see the steps while descending. The defective conditions had existed for not less than three months, and the defendant knew or could have ascertained all the alleged defects in the stairway. The plaintiff ascended the stairway to get her son, who was an invited guest of the upstairs tenants, because she needed him to help her lift something. After visiting with the tenants of the upstairs apartment on a social basis and as an invited guest for several minutes, the plaintiff descended the stairway, and her shoe caught either in a worn place or on a nail protruding through the floor covering, and she fell and was injured. The alleged negligence of the defendant causing the plaintiff's injuries was in allowing the stairway with an abnormally steep angle and thus inherently dangerous, and without handrails or sufficient illumination, to exist and remain in the premises, and in allowing the stairway to become deteriorated, defective and dangerous as alleged.
The defendant contends that under these circumstances the plaintiff was only a licensee on the stairway and as a landlord he owed to her only the duty not to wilfully or wantonly injure her. The issue is whether the facts in the petition show that the plaintiff was a social invitee of the upstairs tenant. To such a person the landlord would owe the duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in repair and free of defective construction. Code 61-112.
Irrespective of whether the plaintiff would have been impliedly invited to the upstairs apartment because of the fact that her son was a social guest there, the petition alleges that the plaintiff did visit with the tenants of the upstairs apartment as a social guest and was injured while departing from that apartment. The allegations stated above bring the petition within the rule, "A landlord is liable to one lawfully present on the rented premises, by invitation of the tenant, for injuries arising from defective construction, or from failure to keep the premises in repair, when the defect is known to the landlord or in the exercise of reasonable diligence could have been known, and the injured person was himself in the exercise of due care." Ross v. Jackson, 123 Ga. 657 (51 SE 578). The duty of a landlord to his tenant is prescribed by statute and common law. The landlord's duty would seem to be founded on the fact that the letting of property is commonly with the purpose of gain to the owner.
The rights of persons on the premises by invitation of the tenant to have the landlord exercise due care for their safety is derived from the right of the tenant to have the landlord exercise such care toward him. They "stand in his shoes." Crossgrove v. A. C. L. R. Co., 30 Ga. App. 462, 464 (118 SE 694); Hickman v. Toole, 31 Ga. App. 230 (120 SE 438); Kleinberg v. Lyons, 39 Ga. App. 774 (148 SE 535); Rothbert v. Bradley, 85 Ga. App. 477, 485 (69 SE2d 293); Nunnally v. Shockley, 91 Ga. App. 767, 769 (87 SE2d 115). These rights against the landlord do not follow from the duty which the tenant as business proprietor or as host owes to his invitee. The duty the occupying owner owes to his social guest is founded upon different reasons.
The trial court erred in sustaining the general demurrer to the petition.
Judgment reversed. Felton, C. J., and Eberhardt, J., concur.
Hutcheson, Kilpatrick & Watson, Lee Hutcheson, G. Robert Oliver, for appellee.
Neely, Freeman & Hawkins, Paul M. Hawkins, J. Bruce Welch, for appellant.
Friday May 22 19:48 EDT

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