May13

CASE DISMISSED – PREMISES LIABILITY

Paul Elkort and Dennis Newitt obtained a dismissal of an action by way of summary judgment on behalf of their in a claim for negligence and fraud in the case of Elias v. DOE Storage.

The case involved a dispute over personal property stored at All Aboard's Northridge, California, storage facility by defendant Elias, Sr. The stored property were part of a probate estate to which plaintiff Elias, Jr. claimed he was entitled. Plaintiff sued his father for return of the property and damages, and also named the storage facility as a defendant in claims for negligence and fraud.

Prior to the firm's involvement in defending the storage facility, plaintiff had requested and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent removal of the property from the premises by Elias, Sr., and to prevent the storage facility from auctioning the property. During the six-month period in which the storage units were rented, the rent was timely paid. In June 2011, defendant Elias, Sr., removed the property and this action followed. Plaintiff contended the storage facility owed him a duty to take steps to prevent the renter, Elias, Sr., from removing the property. Plaintiff also claimed the storage facility was obligated to notify him of any effort by Elias, Sr. to remove the property. The defendants argued in their motion that the self-service storage industry is regulated by Business & Professions Code. As long as the tenant's rent is current, the tenant is entitled to access the storage unit during normal business hours. The storage facility cannot legally prevent a paid renter from accessing his/her unit. Under a landlord-tenant arrangement, the storage facility has no duty to a third party such as plaintiff. A motion for summary judgment was filed on behalf of the storage defendants, which the court granted. When presented with well-established statutory and case law regarding the land-lord tenant relationship, the court ruled as a matter of law there was no triable issue as to the storage defendants.