Tenant Not Responsible for Parking Lot
Facts: A pedestrian slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot of a shopping center. She sued the owner of the property. The owner asserted that the tenant that rented the store near the parking lot was obligated to keep not only its space and the area adjacent to the store but also the parking lot free from ice and snow. The owner sued the tenant, within the same lawsuit, for allegedly breaching its lease by not maintaining the parking lot. The tenant and the owner each asked the trial court for a judgment in its favor without a trial.
Decision: A Connecticut trial court ruled in favor of the tenant.
Reasoning: The tenant argued that because the pedestrian’s injury occurred in an area separate from its space and the front of its store, the owner was liable. The court stated that, “the general rule regarding premises liability in the landlord-tenant context is that landlords owe a duty of reasonable care as to those parts of the property over which they have retained control; they generally do not have a duty to keep in repair any portion of the premises leased to and in the exclusive possession and control of the tenant.” The court had to determine whether the issue of control over the parking lot was definitively expressed in the lease.
While the lease required the tenant to maintain its space and the sidewalk adjoining the space it rented, a separate provision in the lease entitled “Parking,” stated that the tenant had the right of “nonexclusive use in common with others” of the parking lot. That provision, among others distinguishing the parking lot from center tenants’ spaces, treated the parking area as separate and distinct from the rented space and sidewalk in front of the tenant’s store. Those provisions when read as a whole assigned the tenant responsibility “for the demised premises and the sidewalks adjacent to the premises, but does not include any reference to responsibility for the parking areas,” noted the court. The court said that it could be reasonably inferred that it was the intention of the parties when the lease was executed that the parking lot be excluded from the premises under the control of the tenant. Therefore, the tenant was entitled to a judgment in its favor.
- Pike v. Harold Weiner Family, Limited Partnership, December 2012