Morlin Asset Management, LP v. Edward Murachanian

Facts: A commercial tenant and landlord enter into a lease agreement for a unit in a commercial complex. The lease agreement contains an indemnification clause, requiring the tenant to indemnify the landlord against any claims or liability arising out of the tenant’s use of their individual unit. Later, a cleaning worker hired by the tenant falls and injures themselves in a common area outside the tenant’s unit. The worker files a lawsuit against the landlord for negligence due to alleged safety hazards in the common area.

Claim: The landlord seeks to avoid liability and compel the tenant to indemnify the landlord, claiming the tenant is liable for the worker’s injuries under the indemnification clause in the lease agreement since the tenant’s hiring of the worker to clean their unit constitutes their use of the premises and therefore was the cause of the worker’s injuries.

Counter claim: The tenant claims they are not liable for the worker’s injuries since the indemnification clause only applies to injuries occurring within the tenant’s leased unit, not in a common area, and the tenant’s employment of the worker did not cause the injuries.

Holding: A California court of appeals holds the tenant is not required to indemnify the landlord under the lease agreement since the indemnification clause only protects the landlord against claims for injuries occurring within the tenant’s leased unit, not in a common area controlled by the landlord, and the tenant’s hiring of the cleaning worker does not constitute a cause of the injuries. [Morlin Asset Management, LP v. Edward Murachanian (February 8, 2016)_CA4th_]