In a suit by a commercial tenant and their insurance company against the landlord, Mr. Ducet, the landlord defended by arguing that the terms of the lease prevented the tenant from recovering damages. If the tenant was unable to recover damages the insurance company would also be unable to recover under the legal concept of subrogation.
The lease clause in question was called a mutual waiver. In it the parties agreed not to bring claims against each other for damages as a result of a fire if the damages were or could have been insured against under a typical fire insurance policy. The lease also stated that the landlord and the renter would each get a waiver of subrogation from their respective insurance underwriters. Subrogation is when an insurance company pays their policy holder the cost to repair or replace the damaged property but then sues the person who caused the damage or is otherwise legally responsible for it to get the money back from them. The Court found that the waiver in the lease prevented the tenant’s insurance company from suing the landlord for the amount the company had paid the tenant for damaged personal property and equipment. The Court stated that the insurance company, as subrogee, had no greater rights than the tenant. Under the mutual waiver provision in the lease agreement the tenant had no right to sue the landlord for the cost of personal property or equipment lost in a fire, therefore the insurance company could have no right to sue either.
Another issue in the case was how the mutual waiver affected other responsibilities under the contract. The tenant arranged to have the roof repaired after the fire even though under the terms of the lease the landlord was responsible for repairing any damage done to the building itself as a result of a fire. The Court found that the landlord had a duty under the contract to keep the building itself in good repair and that it was his responsibility to repair the roof after the fire. The fact that the tenant hired someone to fix the roof before the landlord had done it did not relieve the landlord of his obligation. The mutual waiver clause in the lease did not prevent the repair company from suing the landlord for the cost of the repairs which were the landlord’s responsibility.
This case shows how previous contracts, such as a lease, can affect later contracts, like fire insurance policies, even when they are made with third parties. It is important for every property owner and renter to understand how their contracts affect their rights and obligations in regard to their property. This is equally important for business owners as for people dealing with their own homes.
The experienced lawyers at the Berniard law firm can help you understand and resolve these complex issues.