North Carolina Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Premises Injury Case involving Legionnaires’ Disease

Vacation rentals are a great way to unwind, but they can also pose serious threats to your health and safety. It’s hard to know whether a property has been maintained safely, especially with the rise of apps that allow you to stay in someone’s private home. The lack of oversight from a professional management company can make it easier for the property owner to miss safety issues. As dedicated North Carolina premises liability injury lawyers, we are prepared to help you secure the compensation you deserve from a careless property owner.

In a recent case, the plaintiff’s filed a complaint against the owner of a property that they rented through an app-based service alleging that they suffered Legionnaires’ disease due to the owner’s failure to properly maintain the hot tub and adjacent waterfall located on the property. They also asserted a claim against the company that the property owner had retained to maintain the water features after construction and installation was complete.

The defendants filed motions for summary judgment that the plaintiffs had failed to prove a connection between the disease they contracted and the defendants’ maintenance of the property. The trial court ultimately agreed with the defendants and granted summary judgment in their favor. The court noted in its statement of decision that the plaintiffs had failed to offer sufficient evidence to prove their claim.

The plaintiffs appealed on the basis that it was a reversible error for the court to grant summary judgment before the discovery period had closed. The general rule states that a court should wait until discovery that could lead to the production of relevant evidence is completed where the party seeking discovery has not been dilatory in doing so, but that a court is not barred from granting summary judgment before discovery is closed.

Reviewing the record, the court noted that the plaintiffs were not waiting for any outstanding written discovery responses and that they had not set any additional depositions. Also, the plaintiffs did not argue before the trial judge that they needed to conduct additional discovery.

The appellate court did agree with the plaintiffs, however, that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the defendants were aware they owed the plaintiffs a duty, whether the property owner had effectively passed her duty to the maintenance company, and whether the defendants engaged in negligent maintenance of the water feature. There was also a genuine issue of fact regarding whether the Legionella bacteria was present in the hot tub and water feature at the location and whether its presence caused the plaintiffs’ injuries. On this basis, the appellate court reversed the order of summary judgment in the defendants’ favor and remanded the case for trial on the plaintiffs’ negligence claim.

If you were injured as the result of someone’s failure to make their property safe and secure, you may be entitled to compensation. At Maurer Law, we are committed to fighting for injured North Carolina residents and providing them with the responsive and compassionate legal counsel that they deserve. To schedule a free consultation call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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