Commercial Real Estate

Case Synopsis: While fighting a fire in an industrial warehouse building, a firefighter fell through the roof and was injured. Claims were filed against the building owner, questioning whether proper and adequate property management practices were utilized in connection with the management and maintenance of the premises where the fire occurred.

Expert Analysis: The building was one of several owned and self-managed by an established family investment group. Family members were hands-on in making regular visits to the property, and a long-time maintenance man performed periodic inspections of the property, including physically walking the roof, often-times accompanied by one of the owners. There were no code violations known to exist at the property, nor was there evidence of any known license or permit violations (which were the responsibility of the tenant). There was evidence of proper periodic maintenance and repairs having been made on the roof, which was of a composition that required little or no maintenance.

The fire was accidental in nature, caused by improper use of a piece of electrical equipment which was left plugged in overnight by an associate of the business owner who leased the premises. Review of the lease documents revealed that it was proper and complete, typical to what is commonly used in the business of renting commercial real estate. Depositions of all parties were reviewed and revealed regular communication between both parties with no concerns having been expressed by either party during the initial and subsequent renewal terms of the lease.

Upon review of the evidence, it was determined that the owner had met its obligations and duties pursuant to the lease agreement in connection with owning and managing the building. The owner acted reasonably and responsibly at all times, meeting the appropriate standards of care in the property management industry. No act or failure to act on the part of the owner led to the plaintiff’s alleged injuries. Documents and items provided indicated the property was well maintained, with no evidence of prior complaints regarding the roof or any needed structural repairs made by the owner. In short, the owner did not breach any of the terms of the lease relative to the plaintiff’s claims.

Result: Case settled.

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