Kevin Lewis, an electrician, was severely injured when a hot water pipe burst while he was working for an electrical contractor at a commercial building. A copper hot water pipe broke, releasing steam, causing Lewis to fall and suffer additional injuries.

Later, Lewis sued the current building owner for negligence, premises liability and other causes of action. He settled with the property owner.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Then he sued the previous owner of the property, Chevron USA Inc., which sold the building to its current owner eight years before the accident. Evidence showed the pipe rupture was due to a poorly soldered pipe joint, apparently installed while Chevron owned the building.

Chevron argued there was no evidence it knew of the alleged pipe defect when it sold the building eight years before Lewis’ injury.

If you were the judge would you rule Chevron is liable to Lewis for his injury because the poorly soldered pipe joint was allegedly installed by Chevron more than eight years before his injury?

The judge said no!

This injury was allegedly caused by a latent (hidden) defect in the property, the judge began. There was no evidence presented that prior owner Chevron knew of this defect in the hot water pipe or concealed it when the building was sold, he noted.

After Chevron sold the building to its current owner, the judge continued, Chevron had no control of the property, no ability or duty to inspect it, and could not obtain insurance for this type of risk.

A previous owner of a property has no liability for injury due to latent defects where there was no evidence of concealing that defect, the judge ruled.

Based on the 2004 California Court of Appeal decision in Lewis v. Chevron USA Inc., 14 Cal.Rptr.3d 636.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to newsroom@inman.com.

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