Hundtofte v. Encarnacion

Ignacio Encarnacion and Norma Karla Farias were sued for unlawful detainer even though they had a valid lease and did nothing to warrant eviction. The case settled. They moved to amend the Superior Court Management Information System (SCOMIS) indices to replace their full names with their initials in order to hide the fact that they were defendants to the unlawful detainer action. Encarnacion and Farias argued that even though the unlawful detainer action was meritless, they could not obtain sufficient rental housing after prospective landlords learned that they had an unlawful detainer action filed against them. The superior court granted their motion and ordered that the indices be changed to show only their initials. The King County Superior Court Office of Judicial Administration objected and appealed the order. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed: "[a]lthough we sympathize with Encarnacion and Farias, and other renters in similar situations . . .[t]he public's interest in the open administration of justice prohibits the redaction of the indices in this case." View "Hundtofte v. Encarnacion" on Justia Law

JW, LLC v. Ayer and Martell

In February 2005, tenants Brian Ayer and Debbie Martell began leasing a single-family home from landlord-plaintiff JW, LLC. Tenants resided in the home with their children and animals, including dogs and chickens. At the time tenants moved in, the house was relatively new and in excellent condition. The monthly rent was $1300. Tenants paid no rent in March and April 2012. They paid rent in May 2012 plus $300 in arrears, but made no further rental payments. Landlord filed for eviction in July 2012. The court issued a rent escrow order. Tenants made only a partial rental payment in August, and the court issued an order for a writ of possession. The writ issued on August 10, 2012 and was served ten days later. The writ stated that tenants had to vacate the premises by midnight on September 6, 2012. On the return of service, the sheriff noted that he had explained the writ and tenants had no questions, and, although tenants refused to take the paperwork, the sheriff left it at the residence. Landlord denied tenant further access to the residence to claim property. Landlord also denied tenant access to the items that landlord had retained. Landlord claimed that the justification for retaining tenants’ personal property was based on two statutes. The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court centered on the status of tenants’ personal property, which landlord cleared from the leased premises at the time a writ of possession was executed. The trial court concluded that landlord did not rightfully have possession of the property and ordered landlord to return it to tenant. Landlord argued that pursuant to statute he was entitled to retain the property, and, in the alternative, the court erred in denying his request for a writ of attachment for the property. The Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court that 12 V.S.A. 4854a only allowed a landlord who has evicted a tenant to dispose of trash without the threat of liability, and for other property requires a landlord "to make reasonable efforts to find out what tenant plans to do and to store the property for 60 days." Because the dwelling unit was not abandoned and the tenant did not vacate, 9 V.S.A. 4462 did not apply, and there was no statutory basis to require a landlord to store property remaining in a dwelling unit after an eviction. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "JW, LLC v. Ayer and Martell" on Justia Law

Olsen v. Stark Holmes, Inc.

Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3604(f), and New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law 296(5) and (18)(2). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants denied their application for a lease because of the disability of their son, who suffers from major depression, and that they were denied reasonable accommodation for his condition. On appeal, plaintiffs principally contend that the district court erred in dismissing their claims as a matter of law and that it should have granted judgment as a matter of law in favor of plaintiffs on their reasonable accommodation claim. The court concluded that the district court properly declined to grant judgment as a matter of law in favor of plaintiffs on the reasonable accommodation claim, but that, as to all of plaintiffs' claims, the evidence was sufficient to preclude the granting of judgment in favor of defendants as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment and remanded for trial. View "Olsen v. Stark Holmes, Inc." on Justia Law

Anthony Gagliano & Co., Inc. v. Openfirst, LLC

Robert Kraft formed Electronic Printing Systems, Inc. (the company), which was rebranded, restructured, and sold to various entities. This case involved several leases that the company and its progenies had with Anthony Gagliano & Co., Inc. (Gagliano). Gagliano filed claims against defendants New Electronic Printing Systems, LLC; Openfirst, LLC; Robert Kraft; and Quad/Graphics, Inc. concerning rent allegedly owned under several commercial leases. The circuit court granted (1) granted summary judgment for Quad/Graphics, the last entity to acquire assets of the company; and (2) after trial, directed a verdict in favor of Defendants, concluding that Gagliano did not give sufficient notice to extend the leases to the time when the alleged breach occurred. The court of appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of Quad/Graphics and reversed the circuit court’s directed verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Gagliano’s notice was valid because Gagliano gave sufficient notice to extend the leases to the time when the alleged breach occurred; and (2) Qaud/Graphics was not liable to Gagliano because Quad/Graphics was a subtenant of the lessee, not an assignee of the leases. View "Anthony Gagliano & Co., Inc. v. Openfirst, LLC" on Justia Law

Ulkarim v. Westfield, LLC

Plaintiff, doing business as iWorld, filed suit against Westfield, a shopping center, alleging that Westfield violated a lease agreement. The trial court stated that Westfield's service of a notice of termination was protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute and that each count was based in part on Westfield's service of the notice. The trial court concluded that the litigation privilege, Civ. Code, 47, subd. (b), "arguably" was a complete defense to the complaint. The court concluded that plaintiff's complaint did not arise from protected activity and was not subject to a special motion to strike. Therefore, plaintiff need not establish a probability of prevailing on her claims and the court need not decide whether she did so. Accordingly, the court reversed the order granting the special motion to strike and the order awarding attorney fees to Westfield. View "Ulkarim v. Westfield, LLC" on Justia Law

Dept. of Fair Emp’t & Hous. v. Ottovich

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged that Ottovich owned or managed a Fremont apartment building. He advertised an apartment available for rent. Coleman called and expressed interest. He asked who would be living in the apartment, and she stated that she, her husband, and their young daughter would live there. Defendant responded that he would not rent the apartment to her. Coleman told him, “That’s discrimination.” He replied that he did not have to show her the apartment or rent it to her, and hung up. The Department alleged a “familial status” discrimination violation of Government Code section 19255, and sought compensatory and treble damages. Ottovich moved to dismiss the complaint as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). The trial court denied the motion as frivolous, and awarded plaintiff $2,500. After several discovery abuses by Ottovich, followed by sanctions and warnings, the court entered a default judgment against him. The court vacated the default, but continued to treat his answer as stricken and treated the complaint’s allegations as judicially admitted. A jury assessed damages at $8,705. The appeals court affirmed, rejecting an argument that the court was required to reinstate his answer when it vacated the default judgment. View "Dept. of Fair Emp't & Hous. v. Ottovich" on Justia Law

HMC Hotel Props. II Ltd. P’ship v. Keystone-Texas Prop. Holding Corp.

Keystone-Texas Property Holding Corporation owned the Rivercenter Mall and the ground beneath the San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk hotel. Keystone leased the hotel land to Petitioners, who owned and operated the hotel. In 2004, Keystone put the two properties up for sale. After Keystone found a prospective buyer, Petitioners informed Keystone they were interested in buying the land and were not ready to waive their rights under the lease. The deal to sell the properties fell through, and Keystone sued Petitioners for actions Keystone believed scuttled the deal. A jury found for Keystone on all issues and awarded damages for slander of title and tortious interference with a contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no evidence Petitioners caused any damages to Keystone. View "HMC Hotel Props. II Ltd. P'ship v. Keystone-Texas Prop. Holding Corp." on Justia Law

Joseph P. Notarianni Revocable Trust v. Notarianni

Decedent established a Trust that required, upon Decedent’s death, the trustee to distribute a parcel of land to the trustee and to distribute the remainder of the land to Decedent’s children. The Trust filed a complaint for eviction for unlawfully holding over after the termination of tenancy against Defendants, Decedent’s children. The district court entered judgment in favor of the Trust. Defendants appealed, arguing that the Trust was not a landlord and Defendants were not tenants, but rather, tenants in common with the trustee. Therefore, Defendants argued, an action for eviction could not lie. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that the Trust lacked standing. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the superior court did have jurisdiction over trespass and ejectment matters, and therefore, the motion justice erred in dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Remanded for an evidentiary hearing with respect to the issue of standing. View "Joseph P. Notarianni Revocable Trust v. Notarianni" on Justia Law

Guethlein v. Family Inn

Plaintiff rented an apartment from Defendant, a residential hotel. After Plaintiff’s tenancy terminated, she filed suit against Defendant for failing to return her $500 security deposit within thirty days. During the discovery process, Defendant failed to provide informal or formal discovery, resulting in entry of an order compelling discovery and granting Plaintiff her attorney fees as a sanction against Defendant. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for sanctions due to Defendant's continued failure to provide discovery. After a hearing at which Defendant did not appear, the court granted the motion for sanctions and entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Defendant filed a motion for relief from judgment, which the justice court denied. Defendant filed a notice of appeal, which Plaintiff moved to dismiss, contending that the notice of appeal was not timely filed and that, although the judgment had already been satisfied, Defendant’s failure to file an undertaking required dismissal. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the notice of appeal was timely filed and that no undertaking was required due to the satisfaction of judgment. Remanded. View "Guethlein v. Family Inn" on Justia Law

Bratton v. McDonough

In 2004, Paula Bratton and Daniel Hills and their children (“the Brattons”), moved into a house that they rented from Halsey McDonough. In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services notified McDonough that he was required to relocate the Brattons because of numerous lead hazards throughout the rental property. The Brattons subsequently filed twelve-count complaint against McDonough. The trial court granted McDonough’s motion for judgment as a matter of law as to some of the Brattons’ claims and in favor of McDonough based on a jury verdict on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court vacated the jury’s verdict and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the trial court clearly erred in excluding the Brattons’ qualified expert witness; (2) the trial court erred in entering judgment as a matter of law for McDonough on the negligence claims of the two older children, as well as the intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages claims of all three children; (3) the trial court improperly shifted the burden of proof onto the Brattons to disprove McDonough’s independent causation theories and erred in refusing to give the jury a proper and requested instruction; and (4) the trial court’s errors created a fundamentally unfair trial. View "Bratton v. McDonough" on Justia Law