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Strauss v. Belle Realty Co.

From lawbrain.com

Strauss v. Belle Realty Co., 65 N.Y.2d 399 (1985), was a tort law case that concerned the extent of liability as related to privity of contract.

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Contents

Summary of Case Facts

The plaintiff was a tenant in a building. A failure at a power station resulted in a twenty-five hour city-wide blackout. During the blackout, the plaintiff, while descending to the basement (a common area) to get water, slipped and fell on the stairs and sustained an injury as a result of being unable to light his way. While the plaintiff did have privity of contract with the power company for his space in the building, the landlord had privity of contract with the power company for the common areas. The plaintiff alleged negligence against the landlord, in failing to maintain the stairs or warn of their dangerous condition, and negligence against the power company in the performance of its duty to provide electricity.

Issue

Does the power company owe a duty of care to a tenant who suffered injury in a common area where only his landlord had privity of contract with the power company?

Holding and Law

No. The extension of liability requested here would stretch the limits of acceptability. To extend liability beyond those plaintiffs with a contractual relationship with the utility would almost allow for “crushing liability” against utility providers. Court basically says, for public policy reasons, they will limit liability to privity of contract. The plaintiff in this case will need to seek redress from the landlord (contractual relationship with the party responsible for the common area in question).

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