Can an indemnification clause in a commercial lease obligate a tenant’s insurer to defend a landlord? Recently, the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York said, “Yes!” On August 9, 2022, the district court issued a decision in ConMed Corp. vs. Federal Insurance Company, holding that the indemnification clause in a policyholder’s lease triggered the insurer’s duty to defend the landlord in an action arising out of the tenant’s negligence.
Facts of the Case
ConMed is a medical technology company that leases warehouse space in Georgia from Breit Industrial Canyon (“the Landlord”) to sterilize its medical equipment. ConMed’s employees filed suit against ConMed and a contractor that performed the sterilization, alleging injuries caused by exposure to excessive amounts of chemicals used in the sterilization process (the “ConMed Action”). Thereafter, ConMed’s employees filed a separate lawsuit against the Landlord, alleging that the Landlord permitted storage of unsafe levels of the chemicals at the warehouse without adequate ventilation (the “Landlord Action”). The lease agreement required ConMed to indemnify the Landlord “except in the event of, and to the extent of, Landlord’s negligence or willful misconduct.”