A California judge has tentatively sided with Public Storage in a $100 million class-action lawsuit that alleged the self-storage REIT tricked California tenants into believing they had to buy company-sold insurance when they rented storage units.

In a Feb. 21 order, Judge Carolyn Kuhl of Los Angeles County Superior Court wrote that the plaintiffs had failed to supply evidence of Public Storage committing “systemic violations” of California’s insurance code.

In addition to alleging that Public Storage led tenants to believe that they had to buy rental insurance through the company, the suit claims Public Storage failed to tell tenants they had options aside from company-sold insurance to meet the requirement that they carry insurance of some kind to cover their belongings.

Kuhl wrote that she found no “uniform misleading statements” were made to plaintiffs in the case that would lead a “reasonable person” to think they had to buy the company’s insurance when they rented a unit from Glendale, CA-based Public Storage. The judge said she found Public Storage employees to be credible in their testimony about corporate training and oversight programs related to renting out storage units and selling rental insurance.

If the judge’s tentative order winds up becoming permanent, it would bring to an end a court fight that has dragged on for three years.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in February 2016, went to trial in late January 2019. The suit involves the purchase of Public Storage rental insurance by various plaintiffs from 2012 through 2016.

Kuhl gave Public Storage until March 11 to file what’s known as a “proposed statement of decision” in the case. Plaintiffs face an April 11 deadline to make objections to Public Storage’s filing. Kuhl set a hearing for June 12 to consider Public Storage’s filing and the plaintiffs’ objections. If all goes Public Storage’s way, the judge then would switch her temporary order to a permanent order, closing the case in favor of the self-storage operator.

Representatives of Public Storage and attorneys for the plaintiffs couldn’t be reached for comment.

Public Storage faced a similar legal challenge in Florida. In 2015, the company settled a class-action suit in Florida that alleged the REIT misrepresented how it was using premiums collected by tenants who bought its insurance.

John Egan