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Krutsick v. Great Coastal Express, Inc.

A-4044-99T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2001) (Unpublished)

LEASES; INTERPRETATION—Loading docks, of which truck bumpers are an integral part, can be considered to be a structural component of the leased premises.

A warehouse building was leased to two separate trucking companies. An employee of one of the trucking companies was injured when his foot fell in the gap between a dock plate and a truck bumper. Allegedly, the truck bumper should have been installed with no more than a one-inch space, but was apparently installed five inches away from the dock plate. The employee sued the landlord and one of the tenants, but not the tenant that employed him. In defense, the landlord pointed to a provision of the lease between the injured employee and the tenant serving as the employee’s employer. It stated, in part: “Lessor, at its expense, shall make all necessary repairs and do all necessary maintenance to the exterior and roof, floors and structural components and systems of the buildings, yard maintenance and improvements in order to keep the Premises in good and safe operating condition and in compliance with all environmental and other laws ... .” The landlord asserted that correction of the improper bumper installation did not fall within the purview of either “repair” or “maintenance.” The Court rejected that reading of the lease, holding it to be far too narrow and constricted. As such, the Court rejected various definitions of “repair” and “maintenance” set forth in cases cited by the landlord. According to the Court, the lease made no attempt to exculpate the landlord from responsibility from pre-existing conditions. Rather, it imposed “a continuing duty upon the landlord to keep the Premises in good and safe operating condition and [made] the landlord responsible for the repair and maintenance of the building’s structural components and systems.” As such, the Court treated the loading docks, of which the bumpers were an integral part, as a “structural component” of the premises.

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