Gordon v. Jones

A-0169-97T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: March 9, 1999

LEASES; INSURANCE; LANDLORD’S LIABILITY—An injured third party can not use a landlord’s failure to enforce its tenant’s lease obligation to maintain liability insurance as a means to impose liability on the landlord for an injury incurred in the tenant’s premises.

A hair salon’s customer slipped and fell on the salon’s tile floor as a result of accumulated water from snow tracked in by customers. The parties agreed that the landlord had no responsibility or duty with respect to the routine day-to-day operation of the hair salon or the maintenance of the interior premises. However, the injured party sought to use the liability insurance clause of the tenant’s lease to make the landlord responsible for payment of any award that might have been obtained against the salon. That clause required the tenant to maintain general public liability insurance for the benefit of the landlord. The tenant never obtained the insurance and no liability policy was in force at the time of the accident. The injured party argued that she was a third party beneficiary of the lease agreement, and the landlord’s failure to enforce the applicable lease provision made the landlord the insurer for the safety of business invitees on the leased premises. The Court, however, found no common law duty of a landlord to verify that its tenant carries or maintains insurance for injuries to third parties on the leased premises. Moreover, the Court held that the lease provision in question was for the benefit of the landlord and did not impose a duty on the landlord to third parties. Further, the lease provided that the landlord was not to be liable for any damage or injury which might be sustained by the tenant or any other person as a consequence of the carelessness, negligence or improper conduct by the tenant or of the landlord. Therefore, the Court held that there was no contractual or common law basis to expand the scope of a landlord’s anticipated risk of liability for the negligence of a tenant or third parties based on a lease provision for liability insurance to benefit the landlord.