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Mut. Ben. Ins. Co. A/S/O Michael Sacks Appellant v. Koser, 2023 Pa. Super. LEXIS 574, 2023 WL 8360563 (December 4, 2023) (Bender, P.J.E.)

Appellant, Mutual Benefit Insurance Company a/s/o Michael Sacks (“Mutual Benefit”), appeals from the trial court’s August 26, 2022 order granting Appellees’, Cortney Koser and Mickael Abels (collectively “Tenants”), motion for judgment on the pleadings. After reviewing this admittedly close case, we affirm.

On October 22, 2021, Mutual Benefit filed a subrogation action against Tenants on behalf of its insured, Michael Sacks (“Landlord”), to recover amounts it paid to Landlord for a fire loss purportedly caused by the negligence of Tenants.

Landlord leased the Subject Property to Tenants. Mutual Benefit stated that, on or about August 3, 2020, while the Subject Property was under the possession and control of Tenants, a fire erupted in the back bedroom of the Subject Property and spread throughout the dwelling, causing significant smoke and fire damage to the dwelling and Landlord’s personal property located on the Subject Property. According to Mutual Benefit, a subsequent investigation revealed that Tenants had left a candle burning in the back bedroom area of the Subject Property and caused the fire. It claimed that, as a direct and proximate result of Tenants’ failure to extinguish the burning candle and/or monitor it, Landlord sustained the damages described above. Mutual Benefit conveyed that it later made payments to Landlord pursuant to the Policy, which was in full force and effect at the time of the fire, in the amount of $187,477.92 for the damage to the dwelling, and in the amount of $4,144.00 for the damage to Landlord’s personal property. As a result of these payments, Mutual Benefit sought subrogation from Tenants.

In this case, we deem the other provisions in the lease between Landlord and Tenants akin to the general “surrender in good condition” or “liability for negligence” clauses referenced in Joella v. Cole, 221 A.3d 674, 2019 WL 5287987 (Pa. Super. October 18, 2019) (Pellegrini, J.). While some provisions in the lease do generally impose liability on Tenants for damages they cause to the Premises, none of the provisions are compelling enough to us to override Tenants’ expectation that — since Landlord had agreed to be responsible for maintaining insurance on the Premises and his personal property — they would be protected by the Landlord’s Policy in the event a candle they left burning started a fire, causing extensive damage to the Premises.

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the trial court properly granted Tenants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings. Landlord agreed to provide fire insurance for the Premises and his personal property. Under the lease, it was reasonable for Tenants to expect that Landlord would look only to the Policy for compensation for fire loss covered by the Policy. We therefore concur with the trial court that Tenants are implied co-insureds under the Policy, and Mutual Benefit is precluded from presenting a subrogation claim against them.

Order affirmed.