Oh v. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America

Facts: A tenant entered into commercial lease agreement with a landlord for the lease of an industrial building in which to operate their haircare product distribution business. The lease agreement provisions barred the tenant from storing hazardous products on the premises. An employee of the tenant was dispensing a flammable and volatile haircare product the tenant sold when it exploded, killing the employee. The landlord of the premises had no knowledge the haircare product was hazardous or highly flammable until after the fire.

Claim: The employee’s family seeks wrongful death compensation from the landlord claiming the landlord had a duty owed to the tenant’s employee to maintain and inspect the premises under the lease provision to ensure the tenant’s use of the premises was safe for others.

Counterclaim: The landlord claims they owed no duty to the tenant’s employee since they had no knowledge of the hazard to give rise to an obligation to enforce provisions in the lease agreement.

Holding: A California court of appeals holds the landlord owed no duty to the employee who was killed due to the tenant’s storage of hazardous material on the premise since the landlord had no actual or constructive knowledge the premises was used to store hazardous materials. [Oh v. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (July 30, 2020)_CA6th_]

Read the case text here.