Indiana Court of Appeals Holds That Lease Terms Bar Landlord’s Carrier From Subrogating Against Commercial Tenant

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Subrogation professionals should review a lease’s insurance provisions to determine if the intent of the lease is to shift the risk of loss to insurance.

April 3, 2019
Gus Sara - The Subrogation Strategist

In Youell v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 2018 Ind. App. LEXIS 497 (2018), the Court of Appeals of Indiana considered whether a landlord’s carrier could bring a subrogation claim against a commercial tenant for fire-related damages when the lease, which did not reference subrogation, explicitly required the landlord to maintain fire insurance coverage for the leased premises. The court held that subrogation was barred because the provision requiring the landlord to maintain fire insurance established an agreement to provide both parties with the benefits of insurance. The Youell case establishes that, in Indiana, if the lease explicitly states that the landlord will maintain fire casualty insurance for the building, the lease evidences an agreement by the parties to shift the risk of loss to the insurer. This agreement bars a landlord’s insurance carrier from subrogating against a commercial tenant in the event of a casualty.

In 2013, the building owner, Greg Dotson, began leasing a commercial building to Robert Youell for his tire business, Best One Giant Tire, Inc. (collectively, Youell). The lease agreement required that the landlord maintain fire and extended coverage insurance on the building and the leased premises. The lease also required the tenant to purchase fire and extended coverage insurance for its personal property. The lease did not mention subrogation. Dotson obtained a property insurance policy through Cincinnati Insurance.

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