Q&A: Liability for Lobby Paintings

Valuable paintings will be hung in our newly renovated lobby which is a common area of our co-op building. What if they are stolen or damaged? The owner who has loaned them has personal insurance but since the paintings are in our common area, can he hold us liable? How can the shareholders protect themselves from future lawsuit or liability from any of such loss to the owner of the paintings?

—Worried in West Village

“First, the parties should take special care to securely mount the paintings to the wall to make it very difficult to remove them—certainly not just hung by a wire over a nail,” says attorney Steven Troup, a partner with the Manhattan-based law firm of Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP.

“The shareholder who owns the paintings should have his/her own insurance on the paintings and the co-op corporation should purchase an "inland marine" policy to insure the paintings as well. The co-op corporation should then have the shareholder sign a hold harmless agreement in favor of the co-op corporation, releasing claims against the co-op in the event of damage or loss. Finally, the paintings will probably have to be appraised before the insurance coverage will go into effect.”

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