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Gonzalez-Velez v. Leyva

A-6510-02T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

LEASES; INDEMNIFICATION—An indemnification provision limited to injuries in or about the demised premises does not require a tenant without exclusive control of the property to indemnify its landlord for an accident on the sidewalk having nothing to do with the tenant’s business.

A pedestrian slipped and fell on a sidewalk outside a commercial store leased by a business owner from the property owner. There was no relationship between the tenant’s premises and the accident. The pedestrian was “admittedly a stranger to the tenants’ business, i.e. her presence on the sidewalk was not incident to a visit to or from the store, and the accident did not occur in the store but arose aside as a result of a sidewalk defect.”

The landlord sought indemnification from the tenant “based upon a contractual obligation in the lease that the tenant[] provide general public liability insurance for the benefit of the landlord, an obligation which was admittedly not carried out.” Specifically, the lease provision read, in pertinent part: “[t]he Tenant ... shall obtain or provide and keep in full force for the benefit of the Landlord, ..., general public liability insurance, insuring the Landlord against 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 persons ... .” The lower court found that this language “required that there be some nexus between the liability and the tenant’s use or occupancy of the leased premises.” Therefore, according to the lower court and according to the Appellate Division, “[t]he clause contained in the landlord’s form lease was clearly intended to protect the landlord with respect to risks associated with the tenant’s use of the leased premises.” Here, because the tenant was not in exclusive possession of the commercial property, and where the accident had nothing to do with the tenant or its business, the landlord was not entitled to indemnification.

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