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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of Washington law to the Washington Supreme Court concerning premises liability. Shannon Adamson, an employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS), fell approximately 15 feet when the passenger ramp at the Port of Bellingham's (Port) Bellingham Cruise Terminal (BCT) collapsed. The accident caused severe, life-changing injuries. The State of Alaska leased the BCT from the Port, allowing ferries to dock at the BCT and load and unload passengers and their vehicles. The Port elected to not implement an interlock device; when Adamson was operating the passenger ramp, slack was created in some attached cables. When she removed the locking pins, the ramp collapsed, snapped the cables, and Adamson and the ramp fell approximately 15 feet until the ramp caught on the ferry. Adamson and her husband sued the Port in federal court, alleging negligence and seeking damages for medical expenses, loss of wages, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. The federal court determined Adamson was the Port's business invitee; the jury returned a verdict in favor of Adamson and awarded over $16 million in damages. The court found the Port under three separate theories of liability: duty to a business invitee, duty as a landlord, and a promise to perform repairs under the lease contract. The issue presented to the Washington Supreme Court centered on whether a property owner-landlord was liable for injuries that occur on its property when the lessee has exclusive possession at the time of the accident but only priority use under the lease and the landlord has contracted to maintain and repair the premises. The Supreme Court answered the first certified question in the affirmative and consequently, did not address the second question. View "Adamson v. Port of Bellingham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order dismissing Tenants' first cause of action against Landlord under the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) but reversed as to Tenants' second, third, and fourth causes of action, holding that the complaint stated plausible claims for relief under Neb. Rev. Stat. 76-1419, 76-1430, and 76-1439 of the URLTA for retaliatory conduct, ouster, and failure to maintain fit and habitable premises but not under sections 76-1418 and 76-1429 for failure to deliver possession. In their complaint, Tenants alleged that numerous code violations materially affecting their health and safety were present at the time they commenced physical possession of the property at issue but were not discovered until later. The City of Omaha Planning Department's housing division eventually declared the property unsafe and unfit for human occupancy, Tenants vacated the premises and did not receive a return of their security deposit or rent and utilities paid for the months they were unable to occupy the premises. Tenants then brought this action. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the alleged facts did not state a claim for relief under the URLTA. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in dismissing several causes of action. View "Vasquez v. CHI Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kasey Harmon, a 53-year-old woman in failing health, was evicted from her home following a default judgment and writ of restitution. During the eviction, Harmon obtained an ex parte order staying enforcement of the judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act of 1973 (RLTA) prohibited such an order. The Washington Supreme Court concluded the RLTA did not apply to tenants, like Harmon, who contested entry of a default judgment in unlawful detainer actions: these actions were governed by the Civil Rules. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision, including the award of appellate attorney fees and costs to Reynolds. View "Randy Reynolds & Assocs. v. Harmon" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed an adverse order by the FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition (ODRA) regarding property Southern leased to the Administration. Southern subsequently sold the property and surrounding land to Prairie Land, assigning its lease with the FAA to Prairie Land. After the FAA refused to vacate the premises, Prairie Land initiated a contract dispute with the ODRA. The court held that the FAA's continued occupancy of the property was permitted, and the ODRA did not err by concluding that the holdover provisions permitted the FAA to holdover on the property until either a new lease was agreed upon or it acquired the property in fee. Therefore, the FAA was fully within its rights to continue possessing the property. View "Prairie Land Holdings, LLC v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Sixty-nine current and former residents of mobilehome park Terrace View Mobile Home Estates filed a lawsuit against the park's owners, Terrace View Partners, LP, Thomas Tatum, Jeffrey Kaplan, and management company, Mobile Community Management Company (collectively, defendants). The operative first amended complaint, styled as a class action, included 12 causes of action based on allegations that defendants' failure to maintain the park in "good working order and condition" created a nuisance that, along with unreasonably high space rent increases, made it difficult or impossible for park residents to sell their mobilehomes. After the court denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification, the parties and the court agreed to try the case in phases, with the first phase involving 16 residents living in 10 spaces in Terrace View. A first-phase jury returned a special verdict finding defendants liable and awarded the individual plaintiffs economic and noneconomic damages for: intentional interference with property rights, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, nuisance (based on substantially failing to enforce the park's rules and regulations), breach of contract/breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, and negligence/negligence per se. The jury found defendants were not liable for nuisance based on failing to provide and maintain the park's common facilities and physical improvements in good working order and condition, and were not liable for elder financial abuse against five plaintiffs. After the jury was discharged, the court issued an order on plaintiffs' cause of action alleging defendants violated Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., the "unfair competition law" (UCL). The court ruled that a "catch-up" provision in defendants' long-term leases that could greatly increase rent at the end of a lease term was unfair in violation of the UCL. The judgment also reflected the court's rulings at the beginning of trial that certain other provisions in the parties' lease agreements violated California's Mobilehome Residency Law or were otherwise unlawful. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the jury's award of compensatory damages and punitive damages had to be reversed. Although the jury's award of economic damages may have included unspecified amounts that could be upheld on appeal if the special verdict form had segregated them, "it is clear from the record that the vast majority of the economic damages awarded represented reimbursement for overpayment of rent and diminution in value of homes caused by high rent. Because the award of such damages cannot be sustained under any of the theories of liability presented to the jury and it is impossible to sever any properly awarded damages from improperly awarded damages." The Court therefore reversed the entire award of compensatory damages and the attendant awards of punitive damages and attorney fees and costs to plaintiffs. View "Bevis v. Terrace View Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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Denise Wright was abducted and robbed at gunpoint by two unknown assailants in a common area of an apartment complex (Wellspring) in which she resided. Wellspring was owned by Respondent Franklin Pineridge Associates and operated by Respondent PRG Real Estate Management, Inc. Respondent Karen Campbell was Wellspring's property manager and an employee of PRG at the time of the incident. Wright sued Respondents for negligence, alleging Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security to residents of Wellspring and breached this duty, thereby causing her damages. She also alleged Respondents were negligent in failing to properly maintain shrubbery and lighting on the premises. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondents on Wright's negligence claim. A divided court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Wright's petition for a writ of certiorari to review: (1) whether Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security services to residents; (2) if such a duty existed under the facts of this case, whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that Respondents breached the duty; and (3) whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that any such breach proximately caused Wright's damages. The Supreme Court concluded the court of appeals erred in affirming the circuit court’ grant of summary judgment in favor or Respondents. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for trial. View "Wright v. PRG Real Estate Management" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of disputes between the parties involving a twelve year commercial lease of office space in Baltimore, Maryland. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court misconstrued the lease agreement and misapplied Maryland law in concluding that Montgomery Park had a duty to endeavor to relet the premises and minimize its damages as a condition precedent to recovering against NCO. The panel held that the lease agreement's language incorporated the common law mitigation-of-damages doctrine, which holds that a plaintiff cannot recover damages which it could have reasonably avoided. Therefore, Montgomery Park's recovery should only have been reduced by the amount of rent that NCO could demonstrate would have been recovered by reasonable efforts to re-let the space. The court also held that the district court, in evaluating the commercial reasonableness of Montgomery Park's mitigation efforts, applied the wrong standard. The court held that reasonable commercial efforts to mitigate damages did not require Montgomery Park to favor NCO’s space over other vacant space in the building, but rather, commercial reasonableness only required Montgomery Park to reasonably market NCO's space on an equal footing with the other spaces that it was seeking to rent. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC" on Justia Law

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Skydive Myrtle Beach, Inc. brought this lawsuit alleging Horry County, the Horry County Department of Airports, and several of their individually named employees improperly attempted to remove Skydive from the space it leased at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The circuit court dismissed Skydive's claims against the individually named employees pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, without allowing Skydive leave to amend its complaint. The court of appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. Finding that the circuit court should have allowed Skydive an opportunity to amend its complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a), the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded the case to the circuit court to allow Skydive an opportunity to file its amended complaint. View "Skydive v. Horry" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Natalie Anderson appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of defendant Adam Robitaille on her petition seeking damages and other relief pursuant to RSA chapter 540-A. Defendant was the general manager of the Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel in Nashua. In November 2015, plaintiff and her husband began residing at Homewood. According to plaintiff, she and her husband shared a full-size apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen, a separate bedroom, separate bathroom, living room, and a dining area, for which they were charged $84 per night plus tax for the unit. Their stay was originally intended to last approximately one year. Plaintiff asserted their stay was extended until May 2017. According to plaintiff, on or about January 4, 2017, defendant informed her by e-mail that her stay would not be extended past January 6. Plaintiff contended that the deadline was later extended to January 10, but was told that if she and her husband did not leave on January 10, the police would be called. Plaintiff brought the instant petition under RSA chapter 540-A on January 9, requesting, in addition to statutory damages, that the trial court enjoin the defendant from ejecting her and her husband from their residential unit. At a January 18 hearing, the parties agreed that the dispositive issue before the court was whether plaintiff and her husband were “tenants” entitled to remedies under RSA chapter 540-A. They further agreed that the court could decide the matter based upon the parties’ pleadings. The trial court found in favor of defendant, concluding that plaintiff and her husband were not “tenants” entitled to RSA chapter 540-A remedies. Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court: plaintiff and her husband were not tenants entitled to remedies under RSA chapter 540-A as a matter of law. View "Anderson v. Robitaille" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court finding for Tenant in the underlying eviction proceedings brought by Landlord and concluding that Landlord had breached the covenants of habitability, holding that a tenant asserting a common-law habitability defense in an eviction proceeding is not required to follow the procedures for an action under the rent-escrow statute, Minn. Stat. 504B.385. In response to Landlord’s action, Tenant raised the common-law habitability defense. The district court agreed with Tenant and ordered retroactive and prospective rent abatement until Landlord’s habitability violations were fixed. On appeal, Landlord argued that a tenant must follow the statutory procedures, including written notice, for a rent-escrow action under section 504B.385. The court of appeals held that Tenant was not required to do so. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that written notice is not required before a tenant raises a common-law habitability defense to an eviction proceeding. View "Ellis v. Doe" on Justia Law