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Lift Fault Falls on Store
by Ron Davis
A few well-chosen words in a tenant’s lease were all the owners of a Connecticut shopping center needed to win a potentially expensive personal-injury lawsuit.
The shopping center, located in Fairfield, is owned by the principals of King’s Highway Realty, L.L.C., which faced charges of negligence in failing to repair a hydraulic lift used at the loading area of the center. A truck driver delivering merchandise to the shopping center was injured when the plate of the hydraulic lift came loose and fell on his left foot and ankle.
The truck driver was actually making the delivery to the premises of one of the shopping center’s tenants, Stop & Shop Companies, Inc., which has leased space at the center for more than 35 years. But the driver named the center’s owners as the parties responsible for maintaining the hydraulic lift.
In fact, however, the lease between the shopping center and Stop & Shop expressly provides that Stop & Shop has total control of the loading area. Furthermore, the injured truck driver was unable to provide any evidence that the shopping center’s owners ever exercised even “reasonable rights of passage” over the loading area.
For example, the lease specifically states that “the loading facilities and area adjacent to any service door of the leased premises…shall be used exclusively” by Stop & Shop. Still another provision of the lease states that the tenant is solely responsible for repairs to equipment that the tenant uses.
Finally, no evidence could establish that the shopping center’s owners installed the hydraulic lift. The lift was not part of the premises when Stop & Shop initially leased space there and apparently was later furnished by Stop & Shop.
On that basis, a Connecticut court ruled in favor of the shopping center’s owners, explaining, “The lease agreement [with Stop & Shop] provides that the center’s owners did not control or possess the loading area or the hydraulic lift. The injured party in this case has failed to provide any evidence to the contrary. For these reasons, the center’s owners did not owe a duty to him.” (Centi v. King’s Highway Realty, L.L.C., 2003 WL 21958449 [Conn.Super.])
Decision: August 2003
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