Articles Posted in Premises Liability

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is reportedly looking into the oversight of a father-son team that was conducting the hazardous operation of moving a gas meter at a Minneapolis school earlier this month when a natural gas explosion caused part of the building to collapse, killing two people. The blast occurred at Minnehaha Academy, a private Christian school in Minneapolis, on August 3rd, just several weeks before school was due to start back. The two victims of the explosion are Ruth Berg, a receptionist who had worked at the school for 17 years, and John Carlson, a part-time custodian and alumnus of the school.

The explosion occurred at about 10:30 AM when contractors working on the building frantically warned of a gas leak. The subsequent explosion collapsed walls, buckled floors, ignited fires, and knocked people off their feet outside the building. Emergency responders and school employees fought fires and climbed through debris to bring people to safety. About eight people were rescued from the building in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, but two remained missing. Berg’s body was found early in the afternoon, and Carlson’s body was found six hours later, both in the rubble near an exterior door.

City records show that the father-son duo that the NTSB is investigating were working for contractor Master Mechanical, which was issued a permit on June 7th for “gas piping and hooking up meter” at the school’s address. The contractor was hired to move a gas meter from inside the school building to outside the school as part of gas company CenterPoint Energy’s plan to move meters outside for easier access. Master Mechanical has been cited twice for workplace violations in recent years, including a violation related to failing to protect an employee from falling in 2010 and a paperwork violation in 2014.

The general rule of premises liability for landowners is that landowners owe visitors to their property a duty to keep them safe from unreasonable risks of injury. This rule does not only apply to landowners, however; it also applies to occupiers (namely tenants) of real property. So what happens if someone is injured in an apartment building, where there are two potentially responsible parties–the landlord and the tenant? § 44-7-14 of the Georgia Code spells out when the landlord is responsible and when the tenant is responsible:

Having fully parted with possession and the right of possession, the landlord is not responsible to third persons for damages resulting from the negligence or illegal use of the premises by the tenant; provided, however, the landlord is responsible for damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.

In light of O.C.G.A. § 44-7-14, the question of liability turns on the issues of where in the building the accident occurred and whether the tenant was aware of the danger. In most cases, landlords are liable only for injuries that occur in the common areas of their buildings or that are the result of hidden defects in occupied dwelling units.

A Chipotle restaurant in Loudon County, Virginia temporarily closed its doors on July 17 due to multiple reports that several of its customers had become severely ill after eating there. The closure sent the company’s stock price down more than six percent. The reports stated that the customers experienced repeated symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fever. Several of the afflicted customers claim that they were diagnosed with norovirus when they visited their doctors. This latest norovirus outbreak has renewed food safety concerns tied to Chipotle, as the company suffered a similar rash of food poisoning events nationwide in 2015.

Norovirus Symptoms and Prevalence

Norovirus is the leading cause of illness from contaminated food in the United States, with about 50% of all food-borne illness being caused by norovirus. Foods that are commonly involved in outbreaks of the illness are leafy greens, fresh fruits, and shellfish, but any food that is served raw or handled after being cooked can be contaminated. The virus can easily contaminate food because it is very tiny and infective. It only takes a very small amount of virus particles (as few as 18) to make someone sick. Food can get contaminated with norovirus several ways, including when:

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