Involved in a premises liability claim involving a commercial property? Depending on the facts of your case, you may find yourself subject to a little known immunity provision due to the existence of a “triple net lease”.
The concept immunizes the owner of a commercial property from liability based upon the conditions of its property where:
- The entirety of the property is leased to a tenant who takes exclusive possession;
- The contract obligates the tenant in exclusive possession to address any and all maintenance and repair obligations for the property;
- The tenant in exclusive possession is obligated to pay the taxes due on the property; and,
- The tenant in exclusive possession is also obligated to maintain the insurance on the property.
Where these factors are fully satisfied, the owner of the property is immune from liability.
Applicability of the doctrine is a fact-sensitive inquiry and will turn upon the language in the lease agreement, the conduct of the parties and the particular theory of liability being pursued. As such, to flesh out the issues, your discovery should include requests for all documents evidencing the defendant’s interest in the property, including but not limited to lease agreements; evidence reflecting who was obligated to maintain, and who actually maintained, liability insurance for the subject property; evidence of all tax payments made on the subject property for the relevant time period; and, any and all documentation evidencing maintenance and repairs performed on the subject property during the relevant time period and all documents evidencing the entity/person charged with the duty to inspect, repair and maintain the property.
For more information on the doctrine, consult Geringer v. Hartz Mtn. Devt. Corp., 388 N.J. Super. 392 (App. Div. 2006), certif. denied, 190 N.J. 254, (2007)