Signing a lease at an apartment complex guarantees you a certain level of safety and security. Landlords must take reasonable steps to protect people who lawfully come onto their property. If you are injured at an apartment complex, you may be able to recover damages from the property managers if you can prove their negligence led to your injuries.
If you are injured at an apartment complex, the property owner’s liability depends on how you were using the property.
Table of Contents
- Colorado Premises Liability Act
- Who Can I Sue if I’m Injured at My Apartment Complex?
- Why You Were at the Apartment Matters
- Apartment Injury Claims & Damages
- Type of Damages You Can Recover
- We Can Help If You Have Been Injured at an Apartment Complex
Injured at an Apartment Complex? Let Us Help.
Landlords have a responsibility to properly maintain and secure buildings and common areas. If you have been injured at an apartment complex, we can help you hold your landlord accountable for their failure to keep you safe. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment, o lláme al 720-359-2442 para hablar con alguien en español.
Colorado Premises Liability Act
Enacted in 1986, the Colorado Premises Liability Act allows an injured person to sue a landowner for the injuries he or she suffered while on the property.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Common types of premises liability cases can include:
- slip and fall cases
- sidewalk accidents
- snow and ice accidents
- inadequate maintenance
- defective property conditions
- negligent security
Who Can I Sue if I’m Injured at My Apartment Complex?
Under Colorado law, a landowner is an authorized agent or a person in possession of real property and a person legally responsible for the condition of real property or for the activities conducted or circumstances existing on real property. Colo. Revised Statutes § 13-21-115
A landowner “need not hold title to property nor have exclusive possession of property” to be held liable under Colorado law. Jordan v. Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Ctr., 2013 COA 87, ¶ 1, 350 P.3d 863, 866
If you are injured at an apartment complex, the “landowner” is typically the landlord or property manager.
Why You Were at the Apartment Matters
If you are filing a lawsuit after being injured at an apartment complex, your burden of proof varies depending on how you were using the property.
Colorado law places the injured person into one of the following three categories:
If you are injured at an apartment complex, the standard of care you are owed depends on your status. Landowners owe a higher standard of care to an invitee than to a licensee. Likewise, a licensee is owed a higher standard of care than a trespasser. C.R.S. § 13-21-115
Your legal classification is important, as it determines the damages you are able to seek.
Were you there for the landowner’s benefit?
An invitee is “a person who enters or remains on the land of another to transact business in which the parties are mutually interested or who enters or remains on such land in response to the landowner’s express or implied representation that the public is requested, expected, or intended to enter or remain.” C.R.S. § 13-21-115
An invitee may only recover for damages caused by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers the landowner actually knew about or should have known about. C.R.S. § 13-21-115
“Licensee” means a person who enters or remains on the land of another for his or her own convenience or to advance his or her own interests, pursuant to the landowner’s permission or consent. C.R.S. § 13-21-115
A licensee may only recover damages caused:
- by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care with respect to dangers created by the landowner that the landowner actually knew about; or
- by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to warn of dangers not created by the landowner that are not ordinarily present on property of the type involved and that the landowner actually knew about. C.R.S. § 13-21-115
Who is a Licensee?
Let’s say you were injured while visiting a friend at his or her apartment complex. You are a social guest of a tenant, which makes you a licensee:
A social guest of a tenant is a licensee absent a showing that the guest entered the premises to transact business with the landlord or that the landlord represented that the guest, as member of the public, was expected to enter or remain. Kelly v. Westbury Cmtys., 2021 Colo. Dist. LEXIS 1329, *5 quoting Wilson v. Marchiondo, 124 P.3d 837 (Colo. App. 2005)
Tenants are Considered Invitees
If you are renting an apartment, you are considered an “invitee” of the apartment complex. Let’s look at how the Colorado Supreme Court decided this in one 1995 case.
Maes v. Lakeview Assocs.
In December 1991, Ann Maes left her Colorado Springs apartment to catch a city bus. She decided to exit through the building’s north door rather than the main door in order to take a shortcut across the complex parking lot. While crossing the parking lot, Maes slipped and fell on a patch of ice, suffering permanent injuries.
Maes sued the complex, Lakeview Apartments, in an El Paso County district court. The court initially determined that Maes had walked across the parking lot with the permission and consent of the apartment complex purely for her own convenience. She was therefore a licensee under the Colorado Premises Liability Act.
With these instructions, the jury ruled in favor of Lakeview.
Maes appealed all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court. The state’s highest court ruled that Maes’ lease gave her the right to use the parking lot “and all other common areas” in exchange for paying rent. She was, therefore, an invitee of Lakeview Apartments rather than a licensee:
“Although Maes crossed the parking lot for her own convenience, she was entitled to exit the building through the door facing the parking lot and to use the parking lot for her own convenience regardless of whether she owned or used an automobile. The lease did not limit Maes’ use of the parking lot or of the door facing the parking lot and did not in general confine the use of the parking lot to tenants who owned or parked cars.” Lakeview Assocs., Ltd. v. Maes, 907 P.2d 580, 586 (Colo. 1995)
A trespasser is a person who enters or remains on another person’s property without the owner’s consent.
Colorado law does not afford much protection to trespassers. If the court finds that you were injured while trespassing at an apartment complex, you may only recover damages willfully or deliberately caused by the landowner. C.R.S. § 13-21-115
Who is a Trespasser?
In July 2018, an arsonist set fire to a building at a Westminster apartment complex. The blaze killed two people, injured 14, and displaced all 140 residents.
One of the two women killed in the fire, Margaret Kelly, shared an apartment with three other women: her friend, Cynthia Montez, and Cynthia’s two daughters, Noemi and Danae Morales. The other three women survived by jumping from a third-story window, sustaining multiple injuries.
Margaret’s surviving family filed a premises liability lawsuit against the apartment complex in an Adams County district court. They claimed Margaret was an invitee of the property manager.
However, the court found that only Noemi’s name was on the lease for the apartment. Margaret had never contributed to the rent. Therefore, she was considered a trespasser in the eyes of Colorado law:
“Based on the above, even viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom in favor of Plaintiffs, the Court finds that the Decedent was on the premises without the express or implied consent of the landowners, and that the Defendants derived no economic benefit from the Decedent. This renders Decedent a trespasser for purposes of the PLA.” Kelly v. Westbury Cmtys., 2021 Colo. Dist. LEXIS 1275, *17-18
The court ruled that Margaret died due to the willful and deliberate acts of the unknown arsonist, not the apartment complex. Therefore, Margaret’s family could not recover damages from the property owners.
Apartment Injury Claims & Damages
Failure to Properly Maintain Claims
If you are injured at an apartment complex due to poor maintenance of the premises, you may be able to file a premises liability claim against the property manager.
Colorado Apartment Case
In June 1997, Lowell Flaming slipped in the shower at his Colorado Springs apartment and fell, catching his left arm on the previously broken glass partition around the bathtub. He lacerated his left axilla and suffered scarring and nerve damage.
Lowell and his wife, Teresa, sued the apartment owner and the maintenance supervisor. The apartment, Apollo Village, claimed it was not a “landowner” because it did not retain control over the apartment and the lease did not obligate Apollo to make repairs to the Flamings’ unit. A Colorado district court agreed and dismissed the Flamings’ claim.
The Flamings appealed. When the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case, it found that the district court was mistaken in dismissing the case:
“Although not strictly obligated by the lease to make repairs, Apollo did so in practice by retaining a maintenance supervisor. Darryl Miller, Apollo’s maintenance supervisor, testified that he routinely and regularly performed repairs for Apollo residents… Thus, even though the lease in this case… only contains a reservation of rights by the landlord to enter the property to make repairs, that does not mean that the Flamings will be unable to establish that Apollo retained control over the property through the history of interactions between Apollo and its tenants.” Flaming v. Colo. Springs Props. Fund I, 33 F. App’x 467, 470 (10th Cir. 2002)
Negligent Security Claims
Most premises liability claims involving apartment complexes stem from inadequate maintenance or defective construction. However, your apartment complex’s property manager also has a responsibility to protect you from hostile intruders.
If you were the victim of a crime at your apartment complex, you may be able to file a negligent security claim against your landlord:
“Generally, there is no duty to control the conduct of a third person so as to prevent him or her from causing physical harm to another unless a special relationship exists between the actor, here, the landlord, and the third person, which imposes a duty upon the actor to control the third person’s conduct. Such special relationships include the landlord/tenant relationship, but only to the extent that the landlord has the ability to control the tenant and knows or should know of the necessity and opportunity for exercising such control.” Molosz v. Hohertz, 957 P.2d 1049, 1050 (Colo. App. 1998)
Courts consider multiple factors in negligent security cases, including:
- the risk involved
- the foreseeability and likelihood of injury as weighed against the social utility of the defendant’s conduct
- the magnitude of the burden of guarding against injury or harm; and
- the consequences of placing the burden upon the defendants.
Molosz v. Hohertz, 957 P.2d 1049, 1051 (Colo. App. 1998)
Other Examples of Negligent Security
Below are some common examples of negligent security at an apartment complex:
- inadequate training
- inadequate staffing
- failure to perform background checks
- failure to secure entrances and exits
- broken locks
- non-working security cameras
- poor lighting
Type of Damages You Can Recover
Here are some examples of damages you can collect if you were injured at an apartment complex:
- medical bills
- lost income
- pain and suffering
- mental anguish
- damaged property
We Can Help If You Have Been Injured at an Apartment Complex
No two premise liability cases are alike, and the outcome depends largely on the facts of your case. Our personal injury attorneys will assess your situation and work toward a favorable solution for you. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment, o lláme al 720-359-2442 para hablar con alguien en español.