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PREMISES LIABILITY: Trial court holds contractor had contractual duty to defend property owner from premises liability action arising from snow removal

The plaintiff brought suit against the owner of property and a snow removal contractor after she fell as a result of snow and ice on the property.  The property owner cross-claimed against the contractor, alleging that pursuant to the snow removal contract, the contractor had a duty to defend the property owner in the underlying action.

The court granted the owner’s motion for summary judgment and the contractor in response claimed that the fall did not arise out of the maintenance work because there was an ongoing storm at the time of the fall.   The court disagreed, granting summary judgment in favor of the property owner.

The court held that the duty to defend is considerably broader than the duty to indemnify and while most courts apply the same rules of construction used in insurance contracts to contracts between a property possessor and service provider, the contract in this case clearly and unambiguously provided that the contractor had a duty to defend the owner for claims arising out of its work under the contract. Because the plaintiff’s complaint set forth a negligence action related to the owner’s maintenance of snow removal, the contractor had a duty to defend the property owner. 

Shomsky v. Milford Beach Associates, LLC, No. CV 16-6021777 (03/16/18)