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Wrong Defendants
by Ron Davis

An injury that occurred at a California shopping center apparently lacks the vital ingredient needed to pinpoint blame.

The shopping center, located in the San Francisco area, is owned by KB Parkside Plaza. And the victim of the injury had gone there for shopping purposes when the mishap occurred.

The specific site of the accident was the parking lot of the shopping center. The complaint has been served on two defendants with similar names and ownership. They are Smart & Final LLC and Smart & Final Stores LLC. (Note the similarity in names.)

The only defendant to appear in court, however, was Smart & Final Stores LLC. No one from the latter Smart & Final attended, but the two defendants acted as one for purposes of the court appearance and were treated as a single entity. (The court, however, treated the two cases as one.)

As in most states, a citizen cannot be held liable for the defective or dangerous condition of property that it does not own, possess, or control. And in the absence of ownership, possession, or control has been unequivocally established, summary judgment is proper.

The judge added, “The undisputed facts show that the KB Parkside was the owner of the entire shopping center where the Smart and Final grocery store was located.

“Therefore, it is undisputed that the (grocery store) defendant was neither the owner nor a possessor of the parking lot. The facts also show that the lease of the defendant did not exercise control over the parking lot. Defendant’s lease included only “rights, privileges, easements, and appurtenances” to the building, including (non-exclusive use of the common areas, parking…and access to the shopping center. The lease provides that the defendant’s only property right in the parking lot was use of customer parking, not control.

“In fact, evidence shows that the grocery store’s managers had no obligation to maintain the parking lot. In fact, the lease supported that contention. The lease obligated the lessor, not the grocery workers, to maintain the common areas, which included the parking lot. Shopping center tenants were merely charged a pro rata share of the expenses that lessor incurred for maintenance.”

(Jabri v. Smart & Final LLC; Smart & Final Stores LLC)

Decision: February 2017
Published: February 2017



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