(Legal Newsline) - The question of whether a property owner and business
lessee are “affiliated” has been decided by California's 3rd District
Court of Appeal in a case involving severe personal injuries.
Muhammad Iqbal v. Imran Ziadeh was appealed from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Joaquin County.
appeals court reversed the lower court’s granting of summary judgment,
noting in its opinion that the trial court ruled the complaint was
barred "by a general release plaintiff had previously executed that
immunized 'affiliates' of the defendants in the former case and
defendant Imran Ziadeh was such an affiliate."
"We conclude as a
matter of law defendant was not a protected 'affiliate,' as that term is
commonly understood," the appeals court wrote.
Yosemite Auto Sales Inc. in 2011 for personal injuries. Yosemite’s owner
Eyad Kaid and Alla Abuziadeh, individually and doing business as
Jimmy’s Tow, also were sued. The plaintiff had been hired by Yosemite
Auto to determine why one of its cars wouldn’t start.
alleged Yosemite Auto retained him to determine why a vehicle it owned
would not start, but when he went underneath the car to test the
electrical connection, the car rolled over him and dragged him around
the parking lot, injuring his spine. Iqbal didn’t know that Abuziadeh
had disconnected the transmission shift linkage but failed to reconnect
it after the car was towed.
After reaching a settlement with Kaid
and Abuziadeh for policy limits of $1 million, that action was
dismissed with prejudice. The release contained this critical
information, as the appeals court noted in its opinion: “'including,
without limitation, any and all known or unknown claims....’" Also of
significance, the release included within its scope "the former
defendants’ ‘affiliates’ and ‘all other persons, firms, or corporations,
with whom any of the former have been, are now or may hereafter be
Three months after the release was signed, in 2012,
Iqbal brought this lawsuit, naming Ziadeh as the defendant. Zaideh
owned the land and leased it to Kaid and Yosemite Auto.
for summary judgment was filed by Ziadeh claiming he was an “affiliate”
as noted in the release that Iqbal had signed with Kaid and Abuziadeh.
The only evidence submitted to prove it was a declaration by
defendant’s counsel, who also represented Yosemite Auto in the first
According to the appeals court’s order, “Counsel stated
he intended the release in the first action’s settlement agreement to be
a general release applicable to all persons, known and unknown, who
were associated in any manner with the accident, including defendant.”
plaintiff argued, in response, that the language in the release was ambiguous
and there were genuine issues of material fact to be decided. The
relationship between Ziadeh and Yosemite Auto had never been disclosed
in the first action, he also argued.
The lower court agreed and
granted summary judgment, stating that because Yosemite leased the
property to the original defendants and consigned the vehicles, the
language of the release and the word “affiliate” applied in that
The appeals court disagreed, stating in its order:
“Defendant was not an affiliate of the former defendants for purposes of
the release agreement, and thus summary judgment should not have been
granted in his favor.”
Sodhi Law Group, Jakrun S. Sodhi and Ameet
S. Birring; Arata, Swingle, Sodhi & Van Egmond, Bradley J. Swingle
and Colleen F. Van Egmond were the attorneys for Iqbal.
Scott, Bonino, Ellingson & McLay; Mark G. Bonino; Stephen P.
Ellingson; Dara M. Tang; Tara S. Nayak; and Gregory J. Goodwin appeared