Realtors Can Be Liable During Showings for Hazards They Create
A Slip-and-Fall Accident is Blamed on a Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents can be liable if they create hazards during showings that injure someone, a New York court ruled in a case that could apply equally nationwide.
The ruling resulted from a lawsuit by a prospective tenant viewing a condominium that was being shown by a realtor from the firm Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The owner contracted with the firm to find a tenant for him.
During the showing, the prospective tenant was injured when she fell down the stairs after viewing the balcony. She said she tripped on a cord for the curtains that covered the door to the balcony.
The prospective tenant sued the condominium owner for her injuries. The condo owner sued the real estate agent.
The realtor showing the property testified she normally opened the curtains before showing the condo. She would then hang the cord on a hook next to the curtains.
She said she did not remember whether she had opened the curtains for the showing when the prospective tenant fell.
The trial court ruled in favor of the real estate brokerage, saying realtors are not responsible for injuries during a showing unless they control the premises. There was no evidence the Prudential Douglas Elliman realtor controlled the condominium she was showing.
The prospective tenant appealed. The appellate court overturned the lower court ruling.
The appeals court said a realtor could be liable for the injury if she launched the instrument of harm.
In this case, the instrument of harm was the curtain cord that tripped the prospective tenant.
Because the realtor testified she could not recall whether she opened the balcony curtains, the appeals court said more facts needed to be determined. As a result, the judges returned the case to the trial court for a new hearing.
The case is Stimmel v. Osherow, 20 N.Y.S.3d 29 (N.Y. App. Div. 2015).