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Cabrera v. Windmere Investors, L.P.

A-5907-06T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

LEASES; LANDOWNERS LIABILITY — A landlord’s obligation for injuries on its property does not extend to the demised premises when the landlord has relinquished exclusive possession and control and a condition is obvious.

A postal employee was injured when he slipped on ice in the parking lot of a building that the Postal Service leased from a property owner. He and his wife sued the landlord, but the lower court dismissed the suit on summary judgment. The Postal Service had leased the property since 1972. Its lease gave the Postal Service “exclusive use and occupancy of the leased building and property, including the parking areas.” Under the lease, the Postal Service was required to “keep the demised premises in good repair and tenantable condition.” After the first year of the lease, the landlord was no longer responsible for repairs “beyond latent defects occurring before the [Postal Service] occupied the premises and discovered by the [Postal Service] thereafter.”

Snow removal was done only by the Postal Service. It used its own equipment and its own employees. It also had a snow removal contract. The landlord never provided snow removal service to its tenant and “was not consulted about or a party to the snow removal contract.” Under New Jersey law, “a landlord is not liable for personal injuries suffered by the employee of a commercial tenant ‘due to a lack of proper maintenance or repair, when the lease unquestionably placed the responsibility for [the] maintenance or repair solely upon the tenant.’” A “landlord’s obligation does not extend to demised premises when the landlord has relinquished exclusive possession and control and a condition is obvious.” According to the Court, the employee’s fall “was due to a condition in a parking lot within the exclusive possession and control of [his employer] which was obligated to maintain the area.” It was not due to a latent condition. Further, the Court pointed out that the law regarding sidewalks abutting commercial premises was inapplicable in this matter.

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