Friday, October 9, 2015

Liability of Landlord-Out-Of Possession In Premises Liability Matters





In his recent decision in the case of Mills v. Gubbio’s, LLC., No. 2013-CV-2940 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Oct. 2, 2015 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas granted a Defendant landlord’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a slip and fall case.  

This personal injury action arose out of an alleged slip and fall on an icy sidewalk.

According to the Opinion, the property owner/landlord out of possession filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that he did not have a duty to maintain the sidewalk or remove ice and snow from the sidewalk.

The Opinion provides a detailed summary of the current status of the law pertaining to the liability of a landlord-out-of possession in premises liability matters.

The Opinion confirmed that it was undisputed between the parties that the out-of-possession landlord leased the entire property to two tenants. It was also confirmed in the Opinion that the terms of the written Release required that the first floor commercial tenant keep sidewalks free from snow and ice. Both tenants were noted to have also confirmed in discovery that the first floor commercial tenant was solely responsible for the removal of snow and ice from the sidewalk and that the commercial tenant had hired a third party to shovel and salt the sidewalks.

Based on these facts, the Court ruled that, since it was undisputed that the out-of-possession landlord did not retain control over the sidewalks or the common areas and given that the written Lease imposed exclusive responsibility upon the commercial tenant for the removal of snow and ice from the sidewalk areas, the Court found that the out-of-possession landlord did not owe a duty of care to the Plaintiff as a matter of law. Accordingly, the landlord’s Motion for Summary Judgment was granted.

Since the court granted summary judgment on the above issue, the Hills and Ridges Doctrine argument raised was not addressed.

 
Anyone wishing to review this Opinion by Judge Nealon may click this LINK.

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