Liability of Dangerous Leased Premises Condition

In Perez v. Grovert, 962 P.2d 996 (Colo. App. 1998), a division of this court concluded that a lessor/owner who transfers possession and control over the leased premises to lessees has no liability under the premises liability statute for injuries resulting from a dangerous condition of the premises. The division emphasized the fact that the lessees were entitled to exclusive possession of the premises and were obligated under the lease to keep the premises in good repair at their own expense. Plaintiff alleged that she sustained injuries when she stepped onto the cover of a water meter pit located on defendants' property. The complaint alleged that defendants had actual knowledge of the hazardous nature of the meter pit and that they were negligent in failing to warn plaintiff of that hazard. Defendants filed an answer denying liability and designating the Ute Water Conservancy District (Ute) as a responsible non-party. Several months later, plaintiff commenced a separate action against Ute. In that action, plaintiff alleged that Ute owned and maintained the water meter, the pit, and the meter cover (hereafter collectively "water meter"). She further alleged that Ute "negligently operated and maintained the water facility by constructing the pit in a manner such as to make it barely visible . . . by failing to use a cover which could be easily and securely fastened . . . and/or by failing to properly secure the cover to the rim of the pit after the last reading of the water meter . . . ." the trial court later consolidated the two actions. Plaintiff also contends that defendants had a nondelegable duty concerning the condition of the water meter. In support of this contention, plaintiff relies on Jules v. Embassy Properties, Inc., 905 P.2d 13 (Colo. App. 1995) and Kidwell v. K-Mart Corp., 942 P.2d 1280 (Colo. App. 1996). In those cases, the defendants retained possession of their property but delegated responsibility for maintenance to third parties. In both cases, divisions of this court concluded that, so long as a landowner retains possession of the property in question, he or she cannot delegate the obligations imposed under the premises liability statute. Unlike the circumstances in Jules and Kidwell, however, defendants here were not in possession of the water meter and, indeed, had no right to tamper with or disturb it. Thus, we conclude that those decisions are inapposite.