Disla v. Dos Santos

A-5199-98T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2000) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: April 11, 2000

LEASES; NEGLIGENCE; LIABILITY—Where more than one tenant in a multi-tenanted building has a lease obligation to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice, the lease provisions may be ineffective and the court needs to look at who is actually doing the work.

A pedestrian fell on accumulated ice and snow on the walkway in front of a building in which a dentist maintained an office on the first floor. The pedestrian was neither entering nor leaving the dentist’s office when she fell. The dentist’s lease defined the demised premises and that definition did not include the sidewalk. A provision in the lease, however, required the tenant to “keep and maintain the [sidewalk] in a clean condition, free from debris, trash, refuse, snow and ice.” In addition, the lease required the tenant to “obtain or provide and keep in full force for the benefit of the Landlord, ..., general public liability insurance, insuring the Landlord against any and all liability or claims of liability arising out of, occasioned by or resulting from any accident or otherwise in or about the leased premises, for injuries to any person or persons… .” The dentist did not name its landlord as an additional insured on the liability insurance policy. After a judgment was entered against the landlord, it sought indemnification from the dentist claiming that the landlord should have been covered by the tenant’s insurance and that the tenant was responsible for the removal of snow and ice from the sidewalk. The lower court granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the landlord. The Appellate Division, however, was constrained to remand the matter for further fact finding. The Court was not satisfied that the record described the nature of the building. In particular, it wanted to know whether it was a multi-apartment building with a dental office on the first floor, a store-front office with the dentist as the only tenant, or something else. Further, it recognized the lease agreement as a form lease “probably available at stationery stores,” and wondered whether all tenants had the same lease. If they did, the Court believed that the result might very well be different. Further, if the building was a multi-apartment building, the Court recognized that the dentist may not be liable if, as was set forth in the dentist’s certification, the landlord always took care of snow and ice removal.