On March 21, 2011 the Colorado Supreme Court announced the case of Constable v. Northglenn, LLC., 09SC1063. Ms. Constable ran a small flower shop in a shopping center located in Northglenn. In the winter of 2009 a patron of the shopping complex slipped and fell in the parking lot suffering injury. This patron brought a claim against Northglenn for negligently maintaining the parking lot under the premise liability act. After being sued Northglenn brought a claim against Constable seeking indemnification for any damages paid to the injured women pursuant to the lease agreement the parties had signed. Constable filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in the trial court arguing that Northglenn had exclusive control of the parking lot and that they had a nondelegable duty as the property owner concerning premise liability claims. The trial court agreed with Constable and granted the Motion for Summary Judgment. However, on appeal the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the trial court concluding that the indemnity provision in the lease was not against public policy and it clearly stated that Constable agreed to indemnify Northglenn for injuries sustained on the property even if they occurred in a location under the exclusive control of Northglenn and as a result of Northglenn’s negligence.
Constable appealed to the Supreme Court and they concluded that the subject language was not ambiguous and that Constable agreed to indemnify Northglenn for injuries on the property including injuries resulting from Northglenn’s own negligence. They further held that the subject language did not violate public policy concerning a property owner’s nondelegable duty concerning premise liability claims as they still owed a duty to the injured party. They were simply allowed by contract to seek reimbursement from Constable.
Historically the courts did not enforce such agreements against individuals with limited bargaining power. Constable was a sole proprietor operating a small flower shop. The lesson here is watch what you sign and make sure you understand the risk you are getting into. In this case Constable had no control over the parking lot and Northglenn was the entity that was at fault for the subject injury. Despite these facts Constable agreed to pay for the harm done in her lease agreement even if Northglenn was the responsible party.
It makes sense to speak with an attorney before signing any contract. If you are the victim of someones negligence please contact the law office of Sisun & Scriven, P.C.