Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
Murray v. Porter
Seneathia K. Porter initiated an unlawful-detainer action against Tracy Murray, doing business as Tracy's Treasure Company, LLC ("Murray"), seeking possession of commercial property and the recovery of, among other things, unpaid rent, late fees, insurance costs, taxes, and attorney's fees. Porter claimed she owned the property, she had leased the property to Murray on a month-to-month basis for the sum of $1,500 per month, Murray defaulted under the lease by failing to pay rent in accordance with the lease, and that she had provided Murray with written notice that her right of possession of the property had been terminated. Murray, on the other hand, denied that she had leased the property. Rather, she claimed she had executed a contract to purchase the property and had made improvements to the property. Following a bench trial, the circuit court purported to enter a judgment in favor of Porter and against Murray. Murray appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, finding no evidence that the district court had adjudicated the unlawful-detainer action. Thus, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the action and the judgment it entered was void and, therefore, would not support an appeal. View "Murray v. Porter" on Justia Law
Nash v. Aprea
Plaintiffs sued Defendant for breach of contract in connection with their rental of Defendant’s home. Defendant failed to file an answer, and the trial court entered a default judgment for $59,191. The judgment included $1,000 in attorneys’ fees pursuant to a provision in the parties’ lease agreement authorizing attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party not to exceed $1,000. Defendant appealed, and the Second Appellate District affirmed. While the appeal was pending, the trial court granted in part Plaintiffs’ motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 685.080, subdivision (a), for an order allowing their costs of enforcing the judgment. The trial court awarded $27,721 in attorneys’ fees under section 685.040, which allows as an award of costs attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing a judgment “if the underlying judgment includes an award of attorney’s fees to the judgment creditor pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (10) of subdivision (a) of Section 1033.5.” Section 1033.5, subdivision (a)(10)(A), in turn, provides that attorneys’ fees may be awarded as costs where authorized by contract. In this appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred in awarding over $1,000 in attorneys’ fees for enforcing the judgment because the lease authorized attorneys’ fees “not to exceed $1,000.” The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that once the judgment was entered, the terms of the lease, including the $1,000 limitation on fees, were merged into and extinguished by the judgment. Because the judgment included an award of attorneys’ fees authorized by contract, section 685.040 allowed an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing the judgment. View "Nash v. Aprea" on Justia Law
Sullivan v. BitterSweet Ranch, LLC
Between 2015 and 2019, BitterSweet Ranch and its managers (“BitterSweet”) leased three parcels of farmland from Frank Sullivan and two of his business entities, The Green Desert, LLC, and The Sullivan Limited Partnership (collectively, “Sullivan”). The parties signed three identical five-year leases (“the Leases”) involving three separate parcels of real property, each owned by one of the three Sullivan parties. The Leases specified that Sullivan was to be responsible for payment of the property taxes, but that those parties were to be reimbursed by BitterSweet, and that BitterSweet was to be responsible for bi-annual rent payments, utilities, and water assessments. For a variety of reasons, the parties purportedly orally agreed to modify the Leases to offset amounts owed to each other throughout the terms of the Leases. Shortly before the Leases were set to expire at the end of their five-year terms, Sullivan claimed that BitterSweet was in breach of the Leases for its alleged failure to make timely rent payments, to pay all property taxes, and to pay the water assessments pursuant to the terms of the Leases. Sullivan then filed three lawsuits (one for each of the Leases and in the names of each of the three parties) in district court. The district court ordered the cases consolidated and then granted summary judgment in favor of BitterSweet, concluding that a genuine issue of material fact had not been created as to whether BitterSweet had breached the Leases. Sullivan appealed the adverse order. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Sullivan v. BitterSweet Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law
HOWARD ITEN V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
In early 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, Los Angeles County passed the “Resolution of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles Further Amending and Restating the Executive Order for an Eviction Moratorium During Existence of a Local Health Emergency Regarding Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (the “Moratorium”). The Moratorium imposed temporary restrictions on certain residential and commercial tenant evictions. It provided tenants with new affirmative defenses to eviction based on nonpayment of rent, prohibited landlords from charging late fees and interest, and imposed civil and criminal penalties to landlords who violate the Moratorium. Id. Section V (July 14, 2021). Plaintiff, a commercial landlord, sued the County, arguing that the Moratorium impaired his lease, in violation of the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court found that Plaintiff had not alleged an injury in fact and dismissed his complaint for lack of standing. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that Plaintiff had standing to bring his Contracts Clause claim. Plaintiff’s injury for Article III purposes did not depend on whether Plaintiff’s tenant provided notice or was otherwise excused from doing so. Those questions went to the merits of the claim rather than Plaintiff’s standing to bring suit. Plaintiff alleged that the moratorium impaired his contract with his tenant because it altered the remedies the parties had agreed to at the time they entered into the lease. The panel held that these allegations were sufficient to plead an injury in fact and to state a claim under the Contracts Clause, and remanded to the district court. View "HOWARD ITEN V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES" on Justia Law
Bronco Elite Arts & Athletics, LLC v. 106 Garden City, LLC
This consolidated appeal arose from a dispute regarding a purchase option within a lease agreement. Bronco Elite Arts & Athletics, LLC, and its manager and registered agent, Brandon Paine (collectively “Bronco Elite”), operated a gymnastics facility in Garden City, Idaho. The gymnastics facility was located on property that Bronco Elite leased from 106 Garden City, LLC (“106 Garden City”), and Tricon Properties, LLC (“Tricon”). The lease agreement provided Bronco Elite the option to purchase the Property five years into the initial ten-year lease term. However, when Bronco Elite attempted to exercise its option, 106 Garden City and Tricon refused to honor the option. Bronco Elite sued 106 Garden City and Tricon, seeking specific performance. 106 Garden City and Tricon argued that Bronco Elite was precluded from exercising its purchase option because Bronco Elite had breached the lease agreement by consistently failing to pay rent on time and the lease terms only permitted Bronco Elite to exercise the purchase option if it was not in breach. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Bronco Elite and ordered 106 Garden City and Tricon to convey the Property to Bronco Elite. The specific performance ordered by the district court was stayed pending appeal. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Bronco Elite, however, the Court found the trial court erred in setting the purchase price of the Property in the way that it did. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Bronco Elite Arts & Athletics, LLC v. 106 Garden City, LLC" on Justia Law
4-Way Electric Services, LLC v. Huntcole, LLC, et al.
Through an Asset Purchase Agreement, seller Huntcole, LLC (Huntcole), transferred to buyer 4-Way Electric Services, LLC (4-Way), all property necessary to conduct the refurbishment business. The Asset Purchase Agreement did not include the building where the refurbishment business was located. Instead, Huntcole leased that building to 4-Way through a separate Lease. Three years after buying the business, 4-Way announced it was moving to a new building in a different city. It began removing large pieces of commercial equipment it believed it had purchased from Huntcole to conduct the refurbishment business. Huntcole protested and argued that because the equipment was affixed to the building, it was not transferred to 4-Way through the Asset Purchase Agreement. The trial court ruled in favor of Huntcole, finding the affixed equipment had been excluded from the Asset Purchase Agreement. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's judgment. The Supreme Court found that based on the plain language of the Asset Purchase Agreement, 4-Way, by purchasing all assets necessary to conduct the refurbishment business, did in fact purchase the very equipment needed to conduct the business. The Asset Purchase Agreement also clearly designated the equipment as personal property and not as building improvements or fixtures. The Supreme Court concurred with the trial court that 4-Way did not have the right to cause damage to the building in a way that breached the Lease. The case was remanded to the trial court to determine the appropriate amount of damages to repair the building in accordance with the Lease, and to recalculate Huntcole's attorney fees' awards. View "4-Way Electric Services, LLC v. Huntcole, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Efficiency Lodge, Inc. v. Neason, et al.
The three plaintiffs in this case had each rented rooms at an extended-stay motel for some time. They fell behind on their rent and were threatened with immediate eviction. They sued to stop that from happening, claiming that they were in a landlord-tenant relationship with the motel and could not be evicted without dispossessory proceedings in court. The motel argued that it had signed agreements with the plaintiffs that foreclosed their claims because, among other things, the agreement stated that their relationship was one of “Innkeeper and Guest,” and “not . . . Landlord and Tenant.” The trial court agreed with plaintiffs, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. After its review, the Georgia Supreme Court vacated the appellate court's opinion and remanded with direction for the trial court to determine the parties' relationship under the proper legal framework. View "Efficiency Lodge, Inc. v. Neason, et al." on Justia Law
Brush & Co. v. W. O. Zangger & Son, Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the district court granting a partial summary judgment construing a long-term written lease between Owner and Tenant and, after a trial, entering a judgment regarding the parties dispute over minimum rent, holding that a factual issue existed precluding summary judgment.Owner sued Tenant for breach of contract after the parties could not agree when renegotiating minimum rent, alleging express breach of contract, declaratory judgment, and breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. The district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of Owner construing the lease but held that there were material facts in dispute as to whether Owner violated the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing when renegotiating. After a trial, the court entered judgment for Owner. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the provision in the lease regarding minimum rent is ambiguous, and therefore, the court's entry of partial summary judgment on the issue must be reversed. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Brush & Co. v. W. O. Zangger & Son, Inc." on Justia Law
Elia Companies, LLC v. University Of Michigan Regents
Elia Companies, LLC, filed suit against the University of Michigan Regents, alleging breach of contract; violations of Michigan’s anti-lockout statute; breach of covenant for quiet possession; constructive eviction; conversion; and unjust enrichment. In 2013, plaintiff entered into a 10-year lease with defendant to obtain space at the Michigan Union for establishing a coffee shop. In March 2017, defendant disclosed its plans to renovate the Union. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the parties’ lease required that they negotiate a relocation of the leased premises. However, defendant terminated the lease on April 20, 2018, based on plaintiff’s alleged default and ordered plaintiff to vacate the premises. Plaintiff filed this action in August 2018, and defendant, over plaintiff’s objection, filed a notice of transfer removing the case to the Court of Claims pursuant to MCL 600.6404(3) and MCL 600.6419(1) of the Court of Claims Act (the COCA). Defendant moved for summary disposition, arguing that plaintiff’s action had to be dismissed because plaintiff failed to comply with the notice and verification requirements of MCL 600.6431 of the COCA. The Court of Claims agreed and dismissed plaintiff’s case. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The panel affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s ancillary claims on governmental-tort-immunity grounds but reversed the dismissal of plaintiff’s contract claim. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred when it excused plaintiff’s failure to timely comply with MCL 600.6431. “All parties with claims against the state, except those exempted in MCL 600.6431 itself, must comply with the requirements of MCL 600.6431.” Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded to the Court of Claims for reinstatement of summary judgment granted in defendant’s favor. View "Elia Companies, LLC v. University Of Michigan Regents" on Justia Law
Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A.
In 2014 the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution directing various City departments and officials to prepare and execute the necessary approvals and agreements to convey the property to Childhelp in exchange for Childhelp’s agreement to continue using the property to provide services for victims of child abuse. Ultimately, however, the City decided not to transfer the property to Childhelp. Childhelp filed this action against the City for, among other things, declaratory relief, writ of mandate, and promissory estoppel, and the City filed an unlawful detainer action against Childhelp. After the trial court consolidated the two actions, the court granted the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s cause of action for promissory estoppel, sustained without leave to amend the City’s demurrer to Childhelp’s causes of action for declaratory relief and writ of mandate, and granted the City’s motion for summary judgment on its unlawful detainer complaint. Childhelp appealed the ensuing judgment. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Childhelp had occupied the property for almost 30 years and had an expectation it would eventually own the property. The 2014 resolution certainly suggested the City was seriously considering selling the property to Childhelp. But it was undisputed the parties never completed the transaction in accordance with the City Charter. While Childhelp cites cases reciting general principles of promissory estoppel, it does not cite any cases where the plaintiff successfully invoked promissory estoppel against a municipality in these circumstances. The trial court did not err in granting the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s promissory estoppel cause of action. View "Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A." on Justia Law