California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division
MORLIN ASSET MANAGEMENT LP et al., Cross-complainants and Appellants,
EDWARD M. MURACHANIAN, Cross-defendant and Respondent.
from judgments and an order of the Superior Court for the
County of Los Angeles No. BC504083. Gregory Keosian and Donna
Fields Goldstein, Judges.
Horvitz & Levy, Mitchell C. Tilner, Stephen E. Norris;
Kuluva, Armijo & Garcia and Sherry L. Grguric for
Cross-complainants and Appellants.
Williams Iagmin and Jon R. Williams for Cross-defendant and
an appeal from the grant of summary judgment on two
cross-complaints for indemnity and apportionment of fault.
Plaintiff Jose Luis Anguiano filed this lawsuit after he was
injured when he slipped on the stairs in the common area of a
commercial building. He was at the building to clean the
carpets in the dental suite of a tenant in the building.
Plaintiff sued the owners of the building and its managers,
Morlin Asset Management LP and Morlin Management Corporation
(the landlords), for negligence and premises liability. The
landlords each filed virtually identical cross-complaints
against Edward Murachanian (the tenant), a dentist who rents
an office suite in the building. The tenant had hired
plaintiff’s employer to clean the carpets in his
tenant moved for summary judgment on the cross-complaints on
the grounds that plaintiff claimed his injury was caused by a
defect in the common areas of the building for which the
landlords had the exclusive right of management and control,
and the tenant’s lease provided he was only liable to
indemnify the landlords for injuries incurred within his
landlords opposed the motion, arguing there were material
disputed facts, including whether plaintiff was at fault for
spilling a bucket of soapy water in which he slipped and
fell; whether the tenant was at fault for failing to fulfill
his duty under the lease to notify the landlords that someone
was coming to clean the carpet, thus depriving them of an
opportunity to take steps to spare plaintiff from carrying
heavy buckets of water up the stairway; and whether the
stairway was defective. The landlords contended the
determination of their rights to indemnity and apportionment
of fault rested on how these disputed facts were resolved.
trial court granted the tenant’s motion for summary
judgment, finding the lease obligated the tenant to indemnify
the landlords only against claims for injuries occurring
within the tenant’s office suite, not in the common
affirm the judgments, as well as the court’s order
awarding attorney fees to the tenant.
was an employee of Arax Carpet Co. Cross-defendant tenant
engaged Arax to clean the carpets in his dental suite. Arax
sent plaintiff and another man to do the work on October 4,
walked up a flight of stairs, plaintiff slipped, falling
forward and suffering severe injuries. Plaintiff sued the
landlords, claiming the stairs presented a dangerous
condition because the treads and risers did not conform to
the building code or industry standards in various respects.
discovery, these facts came to light:
medical report from Dr. Daniel Skenderian stated that, while
carrying soapy water up a flight of stairs, plaintiff
“had apparently spilled some water and slipped and fell
face first, hitting his face and jaw.” Dr.
Skenderian’s report stated that plaintiff
“volunteered that there was soap in the water that made
the spills on the stairs more slippery.” Dr. Skenderian
later testified at his deposition that plaintiff corroborated
the information in the medical records. Dr.
Skenderian’s recollection of what plaintiff told him
was that “he was carrying soapy water, water spilled,
and he stepped in the spill and slipped.” A medical
report and deposition testimony from Dr. Michelle Ward stated
essentially the same thing: that plaintiff told her that he
was carrying buckets of soapy water upstairs; the
“bucket caught on the stair, water spilled and on his
next step he slipped and fell forward.”
plaintiff was asked in discovery to state facts upon which he
based any contention that his actions or omissions were not
the sole cause of the incident, plaintiff responded with the
same allegations he made in the complaint about the dangerous
condition of the stairs, in violation of statute or industry
standards, and said: “As he climbed [the] stairs
carrying heavy buckets of water, Plaintiff made ...