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Holloway v. Group Properties LLC

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 24, 2017

KRISTIN HOLLOWAY
v.
GROUP PROPERTIES LLC

          June 28, 2017 Session

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-003394-15 Robert Samual Weiss, Judge

         This negligence case was brought by Appellee/Tenant, who suffered injuries when a light fixture and a portion of the rental property ceiling fell due to a water leak. Tenant received a judgment in the general sessions court, and Appellant/Landlord appealed to the circuit court. Following de novo review, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Tenant. Landlord appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Andre Bernard Mathis, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Group Properties, LLC.

          Michael S. Long, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kristin Holloway.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

         I. Background

         Kristin Holloway ("Tenant" or "Appellee") rented an apartment from Group Properties, LLC ("GP" or "Appellant"). Approximately two months after Ms. Holloway moved in, she noticed water leaking from the kitchen ceiling. Ms. Holloway notified James Gross, one of GP's owners. Mr. Gross inspected the property but did not find the leak; therefore, he did not contact a plumber. The ceiling of Ms. Holloway's kitchen is textured drywall, and the kitchen light fixture is a fluorescent tube light, approximately four-to-five feet long with a textured plastic cover. Photos taken after the incident and admitted into evidence show water stains on the light fixture and the textured ceiling. Ms. Holloway testified that, after Mr. Gross' initial inspection, she continued to observe water leaking from the kitchen ceiling. Accordingly, she notified Mr. Gross on several other occasions; Mr. Gross disputes that Ms. Holloway contacted him after his initial inspection. On October 29, 2014, Ms. Holloway was standing in her kitchen when the light fixture fell. The fixture had accumulated water, and the water, fixture cover, and a portion of the ceiling fell and struck Ms. Holloway. Ms. Holloway then slipped and fell in the water, sustaining injuries to her head, neck, back, and elbow.

         On April 28, 2015, Ms. Holloway filed a civil warrant in the Shelby County General Sessions Court, seeking compensatory damages for her medical costs and punitive damages. She alleged that GP was negligent in "fail[ing] to repair the ceiling" after she notified it of the water leak. On July 29, 2015, the general sessions court entered judgment in favor of Ms. Holloway in the amount of $4, 940.00. On August 7, 2015, GP filed an appeal to the Circuit Court of Shelby County ("trial court").

         Following a hearing on July 12, 2016, the trial court entered judgment, on August 30, 2016, in favor of Ms. Holloway. In relevant part, the trial court found:

[Appellant] relied on the ruling in Lethcoe v. Holden[] to support its position that [Appellee] failed to meet its burden to establish a cause of action as a premises liability matter.
While [Appellee] failed to specifically cite the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act in its Amended Civil Warrant, the nature of the suit stemmed from the landlord-tenant relationship and as such the Court finds that the ...

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