Myles M. Mattenson
ATTORNEY AT LAW
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
Email: MMM@MattensonLaw.com
Web: http://www.MattensonLaw.com
I Leased My Building To A New Tenant And A Customer
Suffered An Injury. Am I Liable?

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.


I LEASED MY BUILDING TO A NEW TENANT AND A CUSTOMER
SUFFERED AN INJURY. AM I LIABLE?

 

Commercial lessors frequently organize associations which generate leases designed, understandably, to protect the interests of association members. These leases frequently require tenants to completely maintain the property and absolve lessors of all responsibility for any injury to person or property, no matter what the cause.

Grapes resting gently in a bowl of fruit pose no danger. Grapes smashed upon a concrete floor in a market present an invitation to slip and fall.

In a case arising out of Los Angeles County, a woman accepted the invitation, stepped on some grapes resting upon a concrete floor and slipped and fell. The plaintiff filed a complaint for personal injuries against the lessor of the premises as well as the operator of the market.

The lessor argued to the Court that as a lessor out of possession, without any actual notice of the dangerous condition on the floor, he should be let out of the lawsuit. Although the trial court agreed, the Court of Appeal instructed the trial court to the contrary, as follows:

". . . a commercial landowner 'cannot totally abrogate its landowner responsibilities merely by signing a lease. As the owner of property, a lessor out of possession must exercise due care and must act reasonably toward the tenant as well as to unknown third persons. . . . At the time the lease is executed and upon renewal a landlord has a right to reenter the property, has control of the property, and must inspect the premises to make the premises reasonably safe from dangerous conditions."

The Court further observed:

"Even if the commercial landlord executes a contract which requires the tenant to maintain the property in a certain condition, the landlord is obligated at the time the lease is executed to take reasonable precautions to avoid unnecessary danger.'. . . . 'However, the landlord's responsibility to inspect is limited. Like a residential landlord, the duty to inspect charges the lessor 'only with those matters which would have been disclosed by a reasonable inspection.'"

One theory of liability argued by the plaintiff was that the floor of the market was "inherently defective and dangerous." The plaintiff argued that the floor was "improperly finished" because it became "slippery when littered with produce...." The plaintiff asserted that it was "common for the floor of the market to be littered with grapes." Since a dangerous condition was thus potentially "recurring or continuous", the Court of Appeal determined that the matter should proceed to trial.

The moral of the story? Lessors should keep in mind their obligation to periodically inspect their property as well as to maintain their insurance policies in good standing.


[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]


Reprinted from Fabricare
Myles M. Mattenson 2010