Why Leases Can Be Important in a Washington, D.C. Premises Liability Case

As a general matter, those who own or lease property owe a duty to those whom they allow onto their property. If a guest can establish that their injury was due to the property owner’s negligence, the injured party may be able to pursue a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit.

Washington, D.C. premises liability rules apply to both owners of the property as well as those that lease the property. Technically, the laws apply to anyone or any company that exercises possession over the area where the injury occurred. Thus, some District of Columbia slip and fall claims require the court to take a detailed look at the lease between two parties to determine whether a party possesses the location.

In a recent federal appellate decision, the court was tasked with determining whether an insurance company that insured a church could be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries that occurred while at a bible camp at a resort. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance company was not on the hook for the plaintiff’s injuries because the lease between the church and the resort did not mention the attraction that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a young girl who was visiting a resort while at Bible camp. The church hosting the Bible camp arranged to rent out several conference rooms, and signed a lease to that effect. The resort had several other attractions that were not a part of the Bible camp, but that children could partake in during their free time. The resort’s zip-line was among these attractions.

The zip-line was not discussed in the lease. However, because the children were guests of the resort, they could arrange to use the zip-line if they signed a release of liability and paid a separate fee. Unfortunately, when the plaintiff was using the zip-line, an employee failed to clip her in, and she fell 50 feet to the ground below.

The plaintiff pursued a claim against the resort, who looked to the church’s insurance company for indemnification. The insurance company denied any responsibility because the church was not in possession of the zip-line.

The court agreed with the insurance company, noting that the lease between the church and the resort did not include any language about the zip-line. Thus, the lease provided the church no right of possession over the zip-line. Because of this, the company that insured the church could not be named as a responsible party because the plaintiff’s injury was beyond the scope of the policy.

Are You Dealing with a Difficult Insurance Company after a Serious Washington, D.C. Accident?

If you or a loved one recently suffered a serious accident, contact the dedicated District of Columbia personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we represent injury victims and their families in all types of claims, including complex Washington, D.C. car accident cases against insurance companies. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today, call 410-654-3600.

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