Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia
McCulley v. Brooks & Co.
The Supreme Court held that a general appearance after the entry of a final judgment that is void ab initio because of the absence of personal jurisdiction does not, by itself, convert the prior void judgment into a valid one.A landlord obtained a default judgment against a commercial tenant and its guarantor for unpaid rent. The judgment was void as to the guarantor because the landlord failed properly to serve the complaint on him. The circuit court, however, found that the guarantor had entered a general appearance during post-judgment enforcement proceedings and thereby waived any objection to the validity of the default judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying the guarantor’s motion to vacate the default judgment because the judgment was void as to the guarantor. View "McCulley v. Brooks & Co." on Justia Law
The Game Place, LLC v. Fredericksburg 35, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s final judgment against a Lessee and its guarantor in this action brought by the Lessor seeking unpaid rent under a fifteen-year lease after the Lessee vacated the leasehold prior to the expiration of the fifteen-year term.After this action was filed, the Lessee demurred, arguing that the lease was unenforceable under the Statute of Conveyances because it did not contain a seal as required by the common law for a deed or one of the substitutes for a seal available under Va. Code 11-3. The trial court overruled the demurrer and entered judgment against the Lessee. The Supreme Court reversed and entered final judgment in favor of the Lessee and its guarantor, holding that the fifteen-year lease was unenforceable as a matter of law because the lease violated the Statute of Conveyances and the common-law seal requirement. View "The Game Place, LLC v. Fredericksburg 35, LLC" on Justia Law
Cherry v. Lawson Realty Corp.
The General Assembly did not intent to abrogate existing common law causes of action when it enacted Va. Code 8.01-226.12, which sets forth some obligations and immunities for landlords and managing agents when visible mold occurs.Tenants filed a multi-count complaint alleging that one of the tenants suffered damages after being exposed to mold in their apartment. The trial court dismissed two counts of the complaint that were based on the common law, concluding that the General Assembly intended to abrogate the application of all common law claims for personal injury involving landlord/tenant relationships. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 8.01-226.12 does not implicitly repeal or modify any common law causes of action that are beyond the plain language of the statute. View "Cherry v. Lawson Realty Corp." on Justia Law
Robert & Bertha Robinson Family, LLC v. Allen
This case provided the Supreme Court an opportunity to provide guidance on what happens if one of multiple losing parties wishes to appeal from a general district court (GDC) judgment involving consolidated claims by several parties.The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s award of sanctions against Landlord and award of damages in favor of Tenants in this dispute over holdover rent and property damages. Landlord filed a warrant in debt against Tenants. Tenants filed a counterclaim. The GDC ruled against both parties and dismissed all claims. Landlord appealed to the circuit court but later withdrew its appeal. The circuit court awarded sanctions against Landlord and awarded damages in favor of Tenants on their unappealed counterclaim without hearing evidence on the matter. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court abused its discretion by applying a rationale for a sanctions award that finds no support in either the text of Va. Code 8.01-271.1 or this court’s opinions applying it; and (2) the circuit court erred in adjudicating Tenants’ counterclaim. View "Robert & Bertha Robinson Family, LLC v. Allen" on Justia Law
Emerald Point, LLC v. Hawkins
The carbon monoxide detector in an apartment sounded. A maintenance worker replaced the batteries; the alarm later sounded again. The following morning, tenants called Virginia Natural Gas (VNG). VNG’s inspector measured the apartment’s CO levels as hazardous, turned off the gas, and “red-tagged” the furnace. A maintenance worker later declared that he had checked the furnace and vent pipes for leaks, found an attic vent pipe loose, reattached it, and rechecked the CO level, Although not licensed to make heating system repairs, he used screws to secure the sections, contrary to specifications. A code enforcement officer determined that CO levels were within the acceptable range, without visiting the attic or inspecting the equipment. Weeks later, the alarm sounded again. A VNG inspector red-tagged the furnace. With a new furnace installed, the CO levels remained high. The adjoining apartment's furnace was venting into the attic. When the flue was repaired, CO levels dropped. The tenants suffered injuries. In their suit, the court ruled that the tenants failed to establish the requisite level of negligence for punitive damages. They were permitted, over the landlord’s objection, to increase their prayers for compensatory damages. The jury awarded three tenants $200,000 each and a fourth $3,500,000. The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed in part and remanded for a new trial. The court erred in admitting the testimony of an environmental medicine specialist, which had not been disclosed under Rule 4:1(b)(4)(A)(i); erred in admitting testimony regarding alleged defects in the installation of the new furnace--such defects were after-the-fact and not relevant; in permitting amendment of the prayers for relief; in granting a spoliation instruction with regard to tenants’ inability to inspect the furnace. View "Emerald Point, LLC v. Hawkins" on Justia Law