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Does a Landlord’s Violation of the Arizona Residential Landlord-Tenant Act Constitute Negligence Per Se?

Former Counsel
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By:  Kevin J. Parker

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case, Ibarra v. Gastelum, 2020 WL 4218020 (7/23/20), the Court of Appeals addressed the question whether – in a tenant’s personal injury claim against the landlord – a landlord’s violation of the Arizona Landlord-Tenant Act constituted negligence per se. The tenant alleged he was injured by stubbing his toe on a crack in the floor. The tenant alleged that he had made repeated demands that the landlord repair the crack. The statute required the landlord to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition. The tenant argued that a violation of the statute constituted negligence per se, meaning that the violation of the statute satisfied (as a matter of law) the first two elements of a negligence claim – duty and breach of duty. The tenant requested a negligence per se jury instruction. The trial court declined that request and refused to give the requested instruction. The tenant lost the jury trial and appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, rejecting the tenant’s argument. The Court reasoned that negligence per se is limited to situations involving violation of a specific legal requirement, not a general standard of care. The Court determined that the Landlord-Tenant statute’s requirement was a general standard of care, not a specific requirement that the landlord do or refrain from doing any certain or specific act.