The Second Department determined defendant nonprofit did not owe a duty of care to plaintiff’s subrogee for the actions of a tenant which apparently started a fire in the tenant’s apartment. Defendant nonprofit leased apartments to tenants suffering from mental illness. The tenants lived independently with little supervision:
Under limited circumstances, the relationship between a lessor and a lessee can give rise to a duty of care inasmuch as the lessor “must exercise reasonable care not to expose third persons to an unreasonable risk of harm” … . … [T]he relevant inquiry [is] whether the defendant, as sublessor, exposed the plaintiff’s insured in this case to an unreasonable risk of harm. Moreover, in evaluating the existence and scope of the duty of care, we are mindful that where, as here, the action involves only property damage, “the public policies, factors, and other analytical considerations used in setting the orbit of duty are different from those at play in cases involving physical injury” … .
Under the circumstances presented, the defendant established, prima facie, that it owed no duty to the plaintiff’s insured to take affirmative steps to prevent the tenant from smoking in the demised premises … . The evidence showed, inter alia, that all participants in the defendant’s housing program had to be able to live independently, and the degree of oversight provided by the defendant under the terms of its agreement with the tenant was limited. …
“[I]n the absence of fault or a specific contract provision to the contrary, neither the landlord nor the tenant is obligated to perform repairs after a fire” … . Here, the defendant established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the breach of contract cause of action by showing that the subject lease did not impose an obligation on it to repair the premises after a fire … , or to answer in damages for a fire caused by its sublessee … . Tower Ins. Co. of N.Y. v Hands Across Long Is., Inc., 2017 NY Slip Op 02082, 2nd Dept 3-22-17
NEGLIGENCE (LANDLORD DID NOT OWE A DUTY TO PLAINTIFF’S SUBROGEE TO PREVENT A MENTALLY ILL TENANT FROM SMOKING IN THE APARTMENT WHERE A FIRE STARTED)/INSURANCE LAW (LANDLORD DID NOT OWE A DUTY TO PLAINTIFF’S SUBROGEE TO PREVENT A MENTALLY ILL TENANT FROM SMOKING IN THE APARTMENT WHERE A FIRE STARTED)/LANDLORD-TENANT (LANDLORD DID NOT OWE A DUTY TO PLAINTIFF’S SUBROGEE TO PREVENT A MENTALLY ILL TENANT FROM SMOKING IN THE APARTMENT WHERE A FIRE STARTED)