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Bishop-Stone v. Oakwood Gaithersburg Lessee, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 30, 2015

KAREN BISHOP-STONE Plaintiff,
v.
OAKWOOD GAITHERSBURG LESSEE, LLC Defendant. OAKWOOD GAITHERSBURG LESSEE, LLC t/u/o its insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
EQUITY RESIDENTIAL formerly known as ASN Gaithersburg Third-Party Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM CONNELLY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Pending before the court and ready for resolution are Third-Party Defendant ASN Gaithersburg LLC’s (improperly named as Equity Residential) (hereinafter “Archstone”) Motion for Summary Judgment on Third-Party Claim (ECF No. 35) and Third-Party Plaintiff Oakwood Gaithersburg Lessee, LLC’s (hereinafter “Oakwood”) Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 36). At the request of the parties, a motions hearing was held on May 13, 2015. The disputed third-party claim concerns whether Archstone owes a duty to indemnify and defend Oakwood in the underlying tort action filed by Plaintiff Karen Bishop-Stone against Oakwood. At the conclusion of the motions hearing, the undersigned took the matter under advisement. The court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).

Undisputed Facts and Material Inferences

In its Memorandum of Fact and Law in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment, Archstone composed a statement of undisputed facts. See ECF No. 35-1 at 1-4. With the exception of the date of Ms. Bishop-Stone’s slip and fall[1], Oakwood adopted Archstone’s Statement of Undisputed Facts. See ECF No. 36 at 2. The undersigned summarizes the undisputed facts as follows:

a. On or about September 15, 2005 Archstone and Oakwood executed a Residential Master Lease (“Master Lease”) whereby Oakwood leased a residential apartment property known as Oakwood Gaithersburg from Archstone, the owner of the property at the time, for a period of seven (7) years;
b. Oakwood leased the entire property from Archstone which included but was not limited to “all common areas in or around the Building and Land (including entrances, lobbies, hallways, common restrooms, common recreational facilities, and parking facilities, if applicable), the on-site leasing and management offices of the Building, and meeting rooms and storage areas and facilities (if any)[.]” ECF No. 12-2 at 17 (Paragraph 3.1);
c. After leasing the entire property from Archstone, Oakwood then leased individual units to tenants. Plaintiff Karen Bishop-Stone leased an apartment from Oakwood;
d. Plaintiff alleges slipping and falling while walking on a sidewalk located on the property and attempting to descend concrete steps;
e. Plaintiff claims her fall is attributable to the negligence of Oakwood, by and through its employees, servants and/or agents. Specifically, “[Oakwood] negligently failed to maintain the steps and the artificial lighting where the Plaintiff slipped and fell, negligently failed to properly illuminate the area so that tenants and invitees, including the Plaintiff, could see where they were stepping, and negligently invited tenants to use the sidewalk and steps adjacent to the Plaintiff’s apartment when they knew or should have known that the area posed a danger at night due to the poor illumination.” ECF No. 1 at 2 (Compl. ¶ 5);
f. Archstone’s third-party claims administrator conducted an initial investigation of Plaintiff’s claim and found no defects with the property. ECF No. 35-1 at 2;
g. On October 30, 2013 Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Oakwood alleging Oakwood’s negligence caused her to slip and fall. ECF No. 1;
h. On May 5, 2014 Oakwood filed a Third Party Complaint (ECF No. 14) against Archstone “seeking a declaration that Archstone has a contractual duty to defend and indemnify Oakwood for Plaintiff’s claims pursuant to Archstone’s obligations under the Master Lease.” ECF No. 35-1 at 2;
i. The Master Lease includes provisions addressing Oakwood’s obligation to Archstone and Archstone’s obligation to Oakwood in the event of a third-party liability claim.

14.4 Indemnification

14.4.1 Tenant’s Indemnity. [Oakwood] agrees to indemnify and defend [Archstone] against, and hold [Archstone] free and harmless from, any and all losses, costs, liabilities, damages, claims, liens and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs arising from claims made by third parties (collectively, “Claims”) as a result of or incurred in connection with or arising from: (i) any Event of Default by [Oakwood] under this Lease; or (ii) the negligence or willful misconduct of [Oakwood] or its Agents, in, on or about the Premises, except to the extent caused by the negligence or willful misconduct of [Archstone] or its Affiliates, Agents or Invitees. [Oakwood’s] obligations under this subsection shall survive the termination of this Lease.
14.4.2 Landlord’s Indemnity. [Archstone] agrees to indemnify and defend [Oakwood] against, and hold [Oakwood] free and harmless from, any and all Claims as a result of or incurred in connection with or arising from: (i) any default (which remains uncured following receipt of all required notices and expiration of all applicable cure periods) by [Archstone] in the observance or performance of any of the terms, covenants or conditions of this Lease on [Archstone’s] part to be observed or performed; or (ii) the negligence or willful misconduct of [Archstone], or of [Archstone’s] Agents, in, on or about the Premises, except to the extent caused by the negligence or willful misconduct of [Oakwood] or its Affiliates, Agents or Invitees. [Archstone’s] obligations under this subsection shall survive the termination of this Lease.

ECF No. 12-2 at 40. In summary, each party agreed to indemnify the other for its own negligence. These provisions however do not make one party liable for another party’s sole negligence; The Master Lease also addresses commercial general liability insurance during ...


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