Rodent infestations can cause considerable property damage, pose health risks to occupants, and cause emotional distress.
Property owners can sometimes be held responsible for rodent-related damages and injuries. However, proving liability in rodent-related lawsuits can be challenging, especially for tenants.
How to Prove Liability in Rodent-Related Lawsuits
Establishing duty of care
The first step in proving liability is establishing that the property owner owed a duty of care to the tenant. This means that the landlord was responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent rodent infestations. The standard of care will vary by jurisdiction but generally requires owners to take steps such as:
– Maintain the property in rodent-proof conditions.
– Properly store food and garbage.
– Immediately address any maintenance issues that may attract rodents.
– Demonstrate causality
The tenant must also prove that the property owner’s negligence was the proximate cause of the rodent infestation. This means the infestation would not have occurred without the owner’s negligence.
In some cases, it can be difficult to establish causality, as rodents can come from various sources. However, the tenant can use tests such as:
– Testimony from a pest control specialist.
– Evidence of rodent activity, such as droppings, chew marks, or nests.
– Records of previous rodent complaints or infestations on the property.
– Test the damage
The tenant must also be able to prove that he suffered damage due to the rodent infestation. This could include:
– Property damage caused by rodents, such as gnawing or nesting.
– Medical expenses incurred due to diseases transmitted by rodents.
– Emotional distress caused by the infestation.
Defenses Against Rodent Liability
Property owners may raise several defenses against rodent-related liability claims. For example, they may argue that:
– The tenant was negligent in his contribution, such as leaving food uncovered or not properly storing trash.
– The infestation was caused by an unforeseeable event, such as a natural disaster.
– The property was in clean, rodent-proof condition when the tenant signed the lease.