Newton v. Magill

In Newton v. Magill, 872 P.2d 1213 (Alaska 1994), the Alaska Supreme Court held a landlord has a duty of reasonable care in light of all the circumstances. The court stated: "We now further expand the landlord's duty of care in aligning Alaska with the jurisdictions following Sargent, and thus reject the traditional rule of landlord immunity. . . . We do this because it would be inconsistent with a landlord's continuing duty to repair premises imposed under the URLTA to exempt from tort liability a landlord who fails in this duty. The legislature by adopting the URLTA has accepted the policy reasons on which the warranty of habitability is based. These are the need for safe and adequate housing, recognition of the inability of many tenants to make repairs, and of their financial disincentives for doing so, since the value of permanent repairs will not by fully realized by a short-term occupant. The traditional rule of landlord tort immunity cannot be squared with these policies." (Id. at 1217.) The court further stated: "Our rejection of the general rule of landlord immunity does not make landlords liable as insurers. Their duty is to use reasonable care to discover and remedy conditions which present an unreasonable risk of harm under the circumstances. Nor does our ruling mean that questions as to whether a dangerous condition existed in an area occupied solely by the tenant or in a common area, or whether the condition was apparent or hidden, are irrelevant. These are circumstances which must be accounted for in customary negligence analysis. They may pertain to the reasonableness of the landlord's or the tenant's conduct and to the foreseeability and magnitude of the risk. In particular, a landlord ordinarily gives up the right to enter premises under the exclusive control of the tenant without the tenant's permission. The landlord's ability to inspect or repair tenant areas is therefore limited. In such cases, "a landlord should not be liable in negligence unless he knew or reasonably should have know of the defect and had a reasonable opportunity to repair it." (Id. at 1218.)