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SUMMARY JUDGMENT -- EXCULPATORY CLAUSE - ROBINSON V. SOVRAN ACQUISITION LIMITED PARTNERSHIP

In Robinson v. Sovran Acquisition Limited Partnership, [Ms. 2090916, Feb. 11, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. Civ. App. 2011), the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed a trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Robinsons had entered into a rental agreement with Sovran for a storage unit. The rental agreement contained an exculpatory clause that stated, in part, that all "personal property is stored by tenant at tenant's sole risk." When the Robinsons entered the rental agreement she was informed that the storage facility was protected by surveillance cameras 24-hours-a- day. Subsequently, Sovran began renovating the storage facility. During the renovations, someone broke into the Robinsons' storage unit and stole personal property belonging to them. The surveillance cameras did not record the break-in due to the renovations. The Robinsons filed suit against Sovran and other defendants, alleging negligence, wantonness, fraud, deceit, and breach of contract. The defendants moved for summary judgment on various grounds including that the exculpatory clause in the rental agreement barred the Robinsons' negligence claim. The trial court entered summary judgment in their favor on all claims. On appeal, the Robinsons argued that the exculpatory clause does not bar a claim based on the defendants' "active" negligence, as opposed to "passive" negligence. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals refused to draw a distinction between active and passive negligence and held that the exculpatory clause barred the Robinsons' negligence claim. Further, the Robinsons had failed to present substantial evidence of their other claims. Therefore, the Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

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