Washington Law Review


The recent case of Munger v. Unon Savings & Loan Assn., presents a phase of the rather interesting question, under what factual circumstances will the courts find that the landlord after having leased his premises will continue to be held responsible for the general duties of an occupant in relation to third persons who are injured outside the premises, at a place where such persons have a right to be, by a defective condition or nuisance existing on the premises demised. In tbis case D, occupying a four-story building adjoining a public street, rented the third and fourth floors of the building to a tenant to be used for hotel purposes, and retained the two lower floors for the transaction of its own business. The contract between the parties provided "that any and all signs placed in said building must have approval of lessor in writing." When the tenant showed D a "picture" of a sign which he proposed to erect, D gave its oral approval for the erection of the sign. Thereafter, a sign was constructed which the tenant negligently fastened to the outside walls of the third story, in plain view, so that D might easily have seen the manner in which it was attached to the building. During a gust of wind, as P was standing on the sidewalk, the sign fell on her and severely injured her. P commenced an action against D to recover for the injuries sustained on the theory that D was in possession of the premises and was bound not to so use the premises as to injure a pedestrian using the public street, and that when a person was so injured, a prima facie case of negligence was made out. Held P recovers. The court stated (1) that the defendant had not given up full control and possession of the premises used for hotel purposes, as it required the tenant to obtain permission to erect signs, (2) that the provision requiring approval of the lessor to be in writing is immaterial where the rights of a non-negligent third party, on a public street, are involved, (3) that the case falls within the doctrine of Poth v. Dexter Horton Estate, which the court construed to hold that a prima facie case of negligence has been made out against an owner of a building when it is shown that an object fell from the upper story of the building, striking and injuring an innocent pedestrian upon a public sidewalk, and (4) that it was proper to give an instruction on the subject of res zpsa loquitur under the facts of this case.

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