Deadline to Sue Apartment Complex Can Be as Short as One Year

In cases where the inured party is a tenant at the complex, you should know that many apartment complexes are including language in the lease that shortens the normal statute of limitations from two years to one year and the appellate courts will enforce that language.

This is a scary prospect for many people that never even kept a copy of their lease. This will affect any claim by a tenant for negligent security, slip and fall and other injuries on the premises. It does not affect third parties. Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case was filed too late. Normally, the statute of limitations in Georgia premises liability lawsuits is two years from the date of injury. However, in this case, the plaintiff, who rented an apartment from the defendant landlord, had signed a lease shortening the statute of limitations to one year.

The Facts of the Case

In May 2013, the plaintiff signed a one-year lease with the defendant landlord to rent an apartment. One paragraph of the lease included the following clause limiting the tenant’s ability to bring a lawsuit against the defendant:

To the extent allowed by law, Resident also agrees and understands that any legal action against Management or Owner must be instituted within one year of the date any claim or cause of action arises and that any action filed after one year from such date shall be time-barred as a matter of law.

On March 3, 2014, the plaintiff was injured when she fell after stepping on a curb that crumbled under her weight. The curb was located in a common area. A few days before the two-year statute of limitations expired, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was time-barred based on the clause in the lease agreeing to bring any lawsuit against the defendant within one year. The lower court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed.

The Appeal

The plaintiff made several arguments on appeal. First, she argued that the clause did not include causes of action other than those related to the contract. The plaintiff essentially argued that the clause did not specifically mention that it covered personal injury cases, and thus her case should not have been covered by the clause. In the alternative, the plaintiff argued that the defendant’s interpretation of the clause rendered the clause overly broad and unfair. In the end, the court affirmed the decision below in favor of the defendant landlord, rejecting the plaintiff’s arguments. The court held that the plaintiff failed to establish that the clause was overly broad and that the language in the clause clearly applied to “any claim” that arose between the parties.<

Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Atlanta premises liability lawsuit, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Christopher Simon has decades of experience representing Georgia accident victims, and he has the experience and dedication you need to feel comfortable placing your case in his hands. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with Attorney Simon, call (404) 259-7635.