Landlord’s Slip and Fall Nightmare

Cracked SidewalkEverywhere we walk there are sidewalks. As with everything, sidewalks begin to deteriorate as time passes. Many sidewalks have been lifted by a tree root or contain cracks and divots. Individuals can suffer serious injuries from what appears to be just a slip and fall. These injuries can lead to a personal injury lawsuit and the injured party must know who they should sue.

In Senatore v. Kmart Inc., the landlord (Belmont) leased to the tenant (Kmart) a 150,000 square foot building. The lease contained various provisions regarding the parties’ responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk area adjacent to the building and maintaining insurance. The plaintiff filed a complaint against Kmart alleging she was injured due to a dangerous condition (sidewalk with cracks) on the property. The expert for the plaintiff stated that the plaintiff fell because of the defect in the sidewalk paving. Kmart tendered its defense to the landlord’s insurer, which rejected the tender because the landlord had not named Kmart as an additional insured. Kmart then filed a third-party complaint against the landlord seeking indemnification from liability. The trial court granted Kmart’s motion for summary judgment against the landlord holding that the landlord breached the terms of the lease with regard to insurance for the sidewalk and was therefore liable to Kmart.

The appellate panel affirmed stating that sidewalks are a common area rather than a part of the demised premises and that the landlord, under the lease, was generally responsible for maintaining the sidewalks.

Once all parties exchange discovery it may become evident that a third-party should be joined into a lawsuit. Everyone who may be at fault for a person’s injuries should be joined in the lawsuit. This way the injured individual can direct their claims to the right party.

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