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Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division One
March 27, 2018, Opinion Filed
In April 2014, Raul Rodriguez (Rodriguez), while helping his friend, Raymond Cazares (Cazares) repair a rooftop air conditioning unit, lost his balance and tumbled off a wooden pallet attached to a forklift, and fell to his death. Rodriguez's wife and sons—Antoinette Rodriguez, Julian Rodriguez, Richard Gastelum, and Joseph Gastelum (Plaintiffs)—initiated a wrongful death action against a number of defendants, including Cazares, who was operating the forklift at the time of Rodriguez's fall, and Hamilton Prototypes, Inc. (Hamilton), Cazares's landlord. Against Hamilton, Plaintiffs asserted two causes of action: negligence and premises liability. The trial court granted Hamilton summary judgment, finding, inter alia, that Hamilton did not owe a duty to Rodriguez.
On appeal, Plaintiffs argue that under Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 70 Cal. Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561 (Rowland), Hamilton, as Cazares's landlord, [*2] owed a duty to Rodriguez, which Hamilton breached. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm.
I. The leases
A. Hamilton's lease
In 1999, Hamilton, a California corporation that renders prototypes, computer-assisted designs, and molds, leased commercial space in Inglewood, California.2 The lease (signed by Hamilton's owner and president, Scott Hamilton) obligated Hamilton, among other things, to keep "the Premises and every part thereof in good order, condition and repair . . . including . . . air conditioning." The air conditioner for Hamilton's property stopped working in 2010.
B. Cazares's sublease
At some point in 2013,3 Hamilton subleased part of its space to Cazares. Under the terms of the sublease, Hamilton did not covenant to make any repairs to the property. Instead, the sublease provided that it was subject to the terms of Hamilton's lease and that Cazares would "assume all of the obligations and responsibilities of [Hamilton] under the original lease for the duration of the sublease agreement." (Italics added.) Hamilton attached a copy of its lease to the sublease. Cazares used the subleased space as a place to live, even though it was not designed as a living space (e.g., [*3] it had no kitchen sink or toilet).
II. The accident
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2018 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2036 *; 2018 WL 1477846
ANTOINETTE RODRIGUEZ et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. HAMILTON PROTOTYPES, INC., Defendant and Respondent.
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Prior History: [*1] APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC569295, Stuart M. Rice, Judge.
foreseeability, forklift, roof, air conditioner, repair, space, landlord, tenant, sublease, install, factors, pallet, lease, duty of care, defendant's conduct, air conditioning, trial court, policy of preventing future harm, negligent conduct, summary judgment, cause of action, a landlord, conditioning, courts, blame, air