Legal Memorandum: Validity of an Indemnity Agreement in a Lease

Issue: Under Massachusetts law, is an indemnity agreement in a lease valid?

Area of Law: Real Estate Law
Keywords: Indemnity agreement in a lease; Valid
Jurisdiction: Massachusetts
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, § 15 (1994)
Date: 03/01/2000

           Under Massachusetts law


[a]ny provision of a lease . . . whereby a lessor or tenant enters into a covenant . . . the effect of which is to indemnify the lessor or landlord or hold the lessor or landlord harmless, or preclude or exonerate the lessor or landlord from any or all liability to the lessee or tenant, or to any other person, for any injury, loss, damage or liability arising from any omission, fault, negligence or other misconduct of the lessor or landlord on or about the leased or rented premises . . . shall be deemed to be against public policy and void.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, § 15 (1994).  There is thus a question case as to whether an indemnity agreement in a lease may be valid.

Two recent Massachusetts Superior Court cases have addressed this precise issue.  In Knous v. Mehrez, 10 Mass. L. Rptr. 47, No. 97-05206D (Super. Ct. Apr. 30, 1999), the plaintiff fell on a sidewalk outside of a shopping center where she worked as a cashier.  She sued the owner of the shopping center, Wayland Realty, which impleaded the lessee, CVS, as a third-party defendant, seeking contribution and indemnification.  Both Wayland and CVS moved for […]

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