Tenant Not Liable for Elevator Damage Covered by Landlord’s Insurance
What Happened: A government tenant that had leased the floor of an office building for nearly 30 years left behind a mess when it moved out. In addition to removing electronic door locks, office partitions, a fire and alarm system, and other items the landlord claimed as its own property, the tenant left the elevator in unworkable condition. The landlord sued for over $350,000 in damages. While the jury found the tenant liable, it awarded the landlord only $65,000. And the tenant contended that even that amount was unwarranted because it was covered by the landlord’s insurance. The lower court sided with the landlord on the insurance issue.
Ruling: The California appeals court upheld the jury’s verdict but not the ruling on insurance.
Reasoning: There was no dispute that the elevator was broken when the tenant left. The evidence, including testimony that the movers caused the electric sensor system to melt down by jamming furniture in the doors to keep them open, was enough to support the jury’s finding that the tenant was responsible for the damage. But the court was wrong to disregard clear lease language carving out losses covered by the landlord’s insurance from the tenant’s duty to repay the landlord’s costs in repairing damages the tenant caused. Result: The case had to go back down for trial to determine whether the landlord’s insurance covered the elevator damage done.
- Blackburn v. County of San Diego, 2022 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1113, 2022 WL 556830