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Weinstein v. Ganesh Properties

A-3702-00T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

LEASES; INDEMNIFICATION— For lease language to constitute a basis for imposing responsibility on a tenant for injuries off the tenant’s premises, there must be a substantial nexus between the injury and the use of the tenant’s premises.

After purchasing a sandwich at a pizzeria in a shopping center, a customer was abducted from the parking lot and subsequently murdered. The customer’s estate sued the pizzeria, the shopping center owner, and others. The shopping center owner maintained that under its lease, the pizzeria had an obligation to indemnify and hold the shopping center harmless from the asserted liability and to maintain insurance coverage protecting the landlord. The Court focused on two paragraphs of the lease. One required the tenant to “hold harmless landlord against all claims, injury, expenses, costs, damages or fines incurred or suffered by landlord, by reason of or arising out of or in connection with the occupancy or use by Tenant of demised premises or the adjoining walkways, sidewalks, curbs and paved areas or arising out of in connection with the demised premises, adjoining walkways, sidewalks, curbs and paved areas, or of the building, or any part thereof, whether or not ... due to the carelessness, negligence, use or improper conduct of the tenant or the Tenant’s family servants, employees, agents, visitors or licensees.” The other provision dealt with the insurance requirement and called for the tenant to maintain a policy of public liability insurance “with respect to the demised premises, the sidewalks in front of the demised premises, and the business operated by the Tenant therein… .” The Court found one “overriding proposition” that was clear “beyond question.” It held both the “reimbursement and hold harmless provision” and the “insurance obligation” provision were “limited to conditions and events which relate[d] to the demised premises.” In the indemnification provision, the limitation was expressed by reference to claims which arose “by reason of ... or in connection with the occupancy or use” of the listed areas. In the insurance provision, the limitation was expressed by defining the tenant’s obligation to obtain insurance “with respect to the demised premises, the sidewalks in front of the demised premises, and the business operated by Tenant therein.” It was “equally clear” to the Court that the murder did not occur “by reason of,” nor was it an event “arising out of” anything related to the tenant’s premises. The murdered woman was not abducted from the pizzeria nor was she even close to it when she was abducted. The only relationship the pizzeria had to the tragedy was that its customer happened to buy a sandwich for lunch at the pizzeria. The Court pointed to similar issues in four earlier cases. “All recognized that in order for such [lease] language to constitute a basis for imposing responsibility on a tenant, or a tenant’s insurer, for injury or damage incurred outside the tenant’s own demised property, there must be ‘a substantial nexus between the occurrence and the use of the leased premises.’” The Court found no such nexus and therefore found no basis for imposing liability on the pizzeria. “It was not the presence and location of [the pizzeria] that had brought the victim to the place where she was abducted and thereafter murdered.” Further, “it would make no sense to require [the pizzeria] to maintain [liability] insurance respecting activities or obligations of [the shopping center owner] in the parking lot that was maintained for the entire shopping center and had no particular relationship to [the pizzeria].”


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