Out-of-Possession Landlord Prevails in Personal Injury Lawsuit

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In Burgess v City of Glen Falls, a child injured himself after falling from the upper tier of a set of bleachers as a result of a missing foot plank at the East Field Little League Complex in the City of Glen Falls. The City of Glen Falls (hereinafter the “City”) owns the property where the baseball field and bleachers are located leases it Glens Falls Little League, Inc. (hereinafter “GFLL”) under the terms of a 30-year lease, running from January 1, 1992 to December 31, 2021

Under the terms of the lease between GFLL and the City, GFLL had “exclusive use of the Property” to conduct its baseball program. GFLL also agreed that it would construct baseball fields on the site at its expense. The lease further provided that “GFLL shall be responsible for all maintenance and repairs to the Property.” 

The City moved for summary judgment to dismiss the action upon the ground that the City was an out-of-possession landlord who had relinquished control of the premises to GFLL.

In opposition, the Plaintiff argued that the City is not an out-of-possession landlord, as the lease allowed for the City to conduct certain scheduled events on the Property when not in use by GFLL. Pursuant to the lease provision, the City is responsible for any maintenance or repairs required as a result of the events it conducts. The Plaintiff further noted that the City had exercised this right ten months prior to the incident, when the City held an “Annual Summer Jam” at the Property.

The Supreme Court disagreed with Plaintiff’s argument and dismissed the Complaint against the City. The Supreme Court found the provision in the lease, allowing the City to use the Property from time to time, to be analogous to a right to re-enter that does not impair the City’s status as an “out of possession” owner.