DRM trial attorneys Jen McDonald and Evan O’Brien won a significant victory for commercial landlords in premises liability cases. Jen and Evan persuaded a Vermont superior court to dismiss a personal injury claim against a landlord who leased its premises to a supermarket.
The plaintiff was the employee of a dairy vendor who was delivering product to the supermarket and who fell and injured himself on the loading dock, which the supermarket exclusively controlled and maintained under the Lease between the landlord and the supermarket. The Lease not only gave the supermarket-tenant exclusive control of the premises, it also required the supermarket to maintain the premises, including the loading dock, and to indemnify the landlord for any liability claims arising out of the supermarket’s operations on the premises. On this basis, Jen and Evan moved for summary judgment in favor of the landlord. The court agreed, and ruled issued a thoughtful, written decision holding that a commercial landlord who does not retain possession of the premises and who exercises no control over the tenant’s operations, owes no duty of safety to a visitor of the tenant. Accordingly, the deliveryman had no claim against the landlord and the claim was dismissed. This decision expresses an important principle for commercial landlords who own properties that are used and maintained exclusively by the tenants.