Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
DM Trans, LLC v. Scott
Arrive and Tech, compete to help customers coordinate shipments. Six employees at Arrive departed for Tech despite restrictive covenants. Arrive sued the six individuals and Tech for injunctive relief under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836(b)(3), claiming irreparable harm because the individuals had breached their restrictive covenants and misappropriated trade secrets.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Arrive has an adequate remedy at law for each of its claimed injuries, and faces no irreparable harm. Even if its argument were not forfeited, lost opportunities cannot support a showing of irreparable harm under these circumstances. The type of harm Arrive alleges would ultimately translate into lost profits, albeit indirectly, as in the end there is no economic value to opportunities that are not converted to sales. Given the balance of harms, the district court was within its discretion to deny injunctive relief. The court noted that the expiration of the time period of a former employee’s restrictive covenants does not render moot an employer’s request for an injunction to prevent the former employee from violating those restrictive covenants. A court could still grant Arrive effectual relief in the form of an injunction, even though certain individual defendants no longer work for Traffic Tech. View "DM Trans, LLC v. Scott" on Justia Law
Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority v. Mael, et al.
A boiler exploded in a home owned by a nonprofit regional housing authority, severely injuring a man who lived there. He sued the housing authority in both contract and tort, claiming that his lease-purchase contract included a promise that the authority would inspect the boiler, which it failed to do with reasonable care. After the man dismissed his contract claim, the housing authority asked the court to decide as a matter of law that a breach of a contractual promise could not give rise to a tort claim. But the superior court allowed the man to proceed to trial on his tort claim, and the jury awarded over $3 million in damages, including over $1.5 million in noneconomic damages and separate awards to several of his family members for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court reduced the man’s noneconomic damages award to $1 million because of a statutory damages cap, but it excluded the family members’ awards from the amount subject to the cap. The housing authority appealed, maintaining it should have been granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the contract did not create a continuing legal duty to inspect the boiler with reasonable care. It also argued it should have been granted a new trial because it had established that the boiler explosion was caused by a product defect rather than negligent inspection. Finally, the authority argued the family members’ damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress should have been included in the amount subject to the statutory damages cap. The man cross-appealed, arguing that the damages cap violated due process because it failed to account for inflation or the severe nature of his physical injuries. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court's judgment on all issues. View "Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority v. Mael, et al." on Justia Law
Natal v. GMPM Company & al.
Defendants GMPM Company and 479 Maple Street, LLC, appealed a circuit court order granting the petition for wrongful eviction filed by plaintiff Melissa Natal. On appeal, defendants argued the circuit court erred by determining that its property was not a “shared facility” as defined by RSA 540-B:1 (2021). Specifically, defendants argued RSA 540-B:1 did not require that an owner occupy the premises, but, rather, only that an owner have access to the common areas for the purposes of cleaning, maintaining, and monitoring the premises. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, for property to qualify as a shared facility under RSA 540-B:1, the owner had to reside at the premises with the occupants. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Natal v. GMPM Company & al." on Justia Law
Holcomb, Dunbar, Watts, Best, Masters & Golmon, P.A. v. 400 South Lamar Oxford Mad Hatter Partners, LLC, et al.
Holcomb, Dunbar, Watts, Best, Masters & Golmon, P.A. (“Holcomb Dunbar”), was the tenant and 400 South Lamar Mad Hatter Partners, LLC (“Mad Hatter”), was the successor landlord to the property at issue in this case. Mad Hatter sued Holcomb Dunbar for breach of the lease due to its failure to pay rent for the remaining eighteen months of a three-year lease. After discovery, Mad Hatter moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Mad Hatter was awarded $133,900 in unpaid rent. The trial court also denied Holcomb Dunbar’s motion for partial summary judgment and motion to amend its counterclaim, while granting Mad Hatter’s motion to quash certain subpoenas. Holcomb Dunbar’s remaining counterclaims went to trial, and the jury found against it. Holcomb Dunbar appealed the trial court’s rulings on these four motions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's grant of summary judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed its judgment. View "Holcomb, Dunbar, Watts, Best, Masters & Golmon, P.A. v. 400 South Lamar Oxford Mad Hatter Partners, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Fountain v. Fred’s, Inc., et al.
The South Carolina Supreme Court granted review of a court of appeals' decision affirming a trial court's finding that Respondents Fred's, Inc. (Fred's) and Wildevco, LLC (Wildevco) were entitled to equitable indemnification from Petitioner Tippins-Polk Construction, Inc. (Tippins-Polk). Respondent Fred's was a Tennessee corporation that operated a chain of discount general merchandise stores in several states, including South Carolina. Respondent Wildevco is a South Carolina limited liability company that owned a tract of undeveloped commercial property in Williston, South Carolina. In February 2005, Wildevco and Fred's entered into a lease agreement in which Wildevco agreed to construct a 16,000-square-foot commercial space located in Williston, South Carolina, according to Fred's conceptual design specifications. In turn, Fred's agreed to lease the property for ten years. In April 2005, Wildevco entered into a contract with general contractor Tippins-Polk for the construction of the Fred's store and adjoining strip center. Pursuant to the lease agreement between Wildevco and Fred's, Wildevco was the party responsible for "keep[ing] and repair[ing] the exterior of the  Premises, including the parking lot, parking lot lights, entrance and exits, sidewalks, ramps, curbs," and various other exterior elements. Fred's was responsible for maintenance of the interior of the premises. Five years after the Fred's store opened, on a sunny day in March, Martha Fountain went to the Williston Fred's to purchase light bulbs. Her toe caught the sloped portion of the ramp at the entrance of the store, causing her to trip and fall. Fountain sustained serious injuries to her hand, wrist, and arm and has undergone five surgeries to alleviate her pain and injuries. Fountain and her husband filed a premises liability suit against Fred's and Wildevco, alleging Respondents breached their duty to invitees by failing to maintain and inspect the premises and failing to discover and make safe or warn of unreasonable risks. Pertinent to this appeal, Tippins-Polk argued the court of appeals erred in finding a special relationship existed between it and Fred's and in finding Respondents proved they were without fault as to the Fountain premises liability claim. Because the Supreme Court found Respondents failed to establish they were without fault in the underlying action, judgment was reversed. View "Fountain v. Fred's, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Meng v. Rahimi
Li Meng ("Tenant") leased a commercial property from the Plaintiffs, Mohammad Rahimi and Tahereh Dinpajooh ("Landlords") in August, 2019 for the sole purpose of operating a massage business for a two year term. The parties specifically agreed in the written lease that Tenant use of the commercial space was for the sole purpose of conducting a massage business and Tenant was prohibited from using the space for any other purpose. The Landlords prohibited any use of the leased premises which could endanger life. The Landlords noted that even though Tenant was prohibited from any use of the premises which violated public law or governmental rule, the lease specified there would be no abatement of rent even if there was a loss of business arising from some future law. Landlords argued that Tenant's obligation to pay rent was not excused because of these lease provisions. In January, 2020, approximately five months after the parties executed the lease, the first case of the COVID-19 virus was reported within the United States and soon thereafter in Oklahoma. In March, the Oklahoma governor declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 and businesses that were not part of critical infrastructure were ordered to close for a period of time. Tenant stated that she closed the business on March 19, 2020 after she and her sole employee became ill with symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Tenant did not pay rent after March 2020, and she never re-opened her business. By June 2020, Landlords filed this action against the Tenant for past due rent and eviction. Tenant argued that rent was not due from April through August because performance of the contract had become impossible in light of the public health risk with massage which temporarily excused the payment of rent under the doctrine of frustration of purpose or impracticability. The court stated that the defense of impracticability was not a legitimate excuse for the nonpayment of rent and did not allow Tenant to present any evidence in support of this defense. The trial court awarded Landlords $6,400 in past due rent and granted them possession. The Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the trial court, finding that the trial court erred when it did not allow Tenant to present evidence in support of the affirmative defense. View "Meng v. Rahimi" on Justia Law
Fischer v. Hoyt
Ralph Fischer appealed from an order denying his request for attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2018, Fischer and Darin Hoyt executed a Cattle Share Lease. Under the terms of the lease, Fischer rented pasture land to Hoyt. In July 2019, Fischer sued Hoyt in small claims court arguing he was entitled to $15,000 for Hoyt’s failure to pay pasture rent in 2018. Hoyt removed the case to district court and filed an answer and counterclaim, asserting Fischer breached terms of the agreement. Fischer answered the counterclaim and requested attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2020, Fischer received leave of court to amend his complaint and increased his alleged damages to $25,000. After a bench trial, the district court found both parties breached the lease in different respects. Pertinent here, the district court found Hoyt breached the lease by failing to pay rent in 2018. The district court denied Fischer’s request for attorney’s fees, finding "the claims and counterclaims in this matter were far too complex for small claims court and would have been dismissed without prejudice to refile in district court." To the North Dakota Supreme Court, Fischer argues the district court erred in denying his request because he is the prevailing plaintiff after removal from small claims court. Fischer also argued he was entitled to attorney’s fees incurred in this appeal. The Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded for an award of Fischer’s attorney’s fees in the district court action and on appeal. View "Fischer v. Hoyt" on Justia Law
J&A Mash & Barrel, LLC v. Superior Court of Fresno County
J&A, a tenant of real party in interest, TTP, filed suit alleging that TTP failed to honor its right of first refusal when TTP entered an agreement to sell property to a third party, Adventure Church. J&A initiated legal action in the Fresno County Superior Court and filed a notice of pendency of action, commonly known as a lis pendens, to provide notice to interested parties of the litigation; TTP moved to expunge the lis pendens; and the trial court granted the motion. J&A then petitioned for writ of mandate challenging the trial court's ruling.The Court of Appeal granted the writ of mandate, concluding that the order expunging the lis pendens was flawed in several respects. The court found that the trial court's ruling expunging the lis pendens was based on erroneous legal rulings and factual findings not supported by substantial evidence. In this case, J&A has shown the probable validity of its real property claims and is entitled to the continued recordation of the lis pendens pending the outcome of litigation. The court ordered and entered a new order denying the motion to expunge the lis pendens. The court also concluded that J&A, as the prevailing party on the motion to expunge and in the writ proceeding, is entitled to recover its reasonable attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 405.38. The court also directed the trial court to hold further proceedings to calculate and award those attorney's fees and costs. View "J&A Mash & Barrel, LLC v. Superior Court of Fresno County" on Justia Law
Magee v. Cooper
Plaintiff Maia Magee (tenant) appealed a circuit court order in favor of defendant Vita Cooper (landlord) on the tenant’s claim that the landlord willfully violated her right to quiet enjoyment of residential property. Tenant alleged that in retaliation for the August 4 continuance of an eviction proceeding, the landlord: (1) played “loud” rock music on an outdoor stereo system early in the morning and during the day from 8:30 a.m. on Friday, August 7 until 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 9, and “for several hours” after 6:00 p.m. on Monday, August 10; (2) yelled “GET OUT OF MY HOME!” loudly from her property on August 10; (3) either shot a gun or ignited firecrackers during the evening of August 9 and between 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on August 10; and (4) had an unknown and unidentified man, carrying a camera, trespass on the leased property on August 9. Additionally, Tenant alleged that the landlord breached a term of her lease prohibiting the tenant from playing a “musical instrument, radio, television, or other like device in the leased premises in a manner offensive to other occupants of the building” or during certain hours. She assertet that, in finding to the contrary, the trial court improperly failed to consider the timing of the alleged “bad actions,” and misconstrued and mischaracterized certain items of evidence. Furthermore, Tenant contended the trial court erred by: (1) considering each of the landlord’s alleged “bad actions” individually, rather than considering whether, collectively, such actions violated her right to quiet enjoyment; (2) not considering whether the landlord’s alleged “bad actions” violated the parties’ lease; and (3) relying upon Tenant’s failure to submit evidence of a local sound ordinance. Finding that Tenant failed to meet her burden to establish that there was a question of law warranting reversal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Magee v. Cooper" on Justia Law
Wades Welding v. Tioga Properties
Tioga Properties, LLC, appealed a district court judgment awarding Wades Welding, LLC $27,669.90 relating to Wades Welding’s lawsuit for enforcement of construction liens and unjust enrichment. Janice Ellsworth owned Tioga Properties. Tioga Properties owned a restaurant and home (referred to by the parties as a “mobile home”) adjacent to each other in Tioga, North Dakota. Susan Gordon leased the restaurant from Tioga Properties. Gordon delivered rent payments to John Ellsworth Jr., Janice Ellsworth’s son. Gordon resided in the home but had no written lease for that property. In late 2016 and early 2017, Gordon hired Wades Welding to repair the home and restaurant. Wades Welding performed $19,840 of work on the home and $2,500 of work on the restaurant. Wades Welding delivered the invoices for its work to Ellsworth Jr. A day after Wades Welding completed its work at the home, Ellsworth evicted Gordon from the restaurant and home. Ellsworth Jr. supervised the eviction and Gordon left both properties within 48 hours. In December 2017, Wades Welding recorded construction liens against the properties after Tioga Properties failed to pay for the repairs. Tioga Properties sold the restaurant in July 2019. In September 2019, Tioga Properties served on Wades Welding a demand to enforce the home lien. In October 2019, Wades Welding sued Tioga Properties for breach of contract, foreclosure of the construction liens and unjust enrichment. Tioga Properties denied the allegations, claiming it did not authorize Wades Welding's work on the properties. The district court found Wades Welding's construction liens on both properties were valid, and ordered foreclosure of the home lien. The court found the lien on the restaurant was unenforceable due to a service error, but nonetheless awarded Wades Welding the amount of the repaired under the doctrine of unjust enrichment. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Wades Welding. View "Wades Welding v. Tioga Properties" on Justia Law