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Appellant appealed from the superior court’s post-judgment order awarding her attorney fees in the amount of $8,000 after a jury found Appellee liable for illegal eviction and wrongful use of civil proceedings. Appellant had requested nearly $60,000 in attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not apply an improper standard in evaluating Appellant’s request for attorney fees and that the court’s ultimate fee award was not an abuse of discretion. The court reviewed the award of attorney fees pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6014(2)(B) for an abuse of discretion and according the trial court substantial deference. View "Sands v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Waiver of a nonwaiver provision cannot be anchored in the same conduct the parties specifically agreed would not give rise to a waiver of contract rights. The long-term tenant in this forcible-detainer action frequently defaulted on the lease’s rental payment terms. The commercial landlord, however, regularly accepted, without protest, the tenant’s rental payments when tendered. A contractual nonwaiver provision provided that the landlord acceptance of rent past due “shall not be a waiver and shall not estop Landlord from enforcing that provision or any other provision of [the] lease in the future[.]” In this forcible-detainer action, the landlord sought to oust the tenant, claiming a superior right of immediate possession under a lease-extension option. The tenant, in turn, asserted that the landlord’s conduct in accepting late rental payments waived the contractual nonwaiver clause. Thus, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment rejecting the landlord’s forcible detainer action and rendered judgment in the landlord’s favor because the landlord did not act inconsistently with the contract’s express terms and because the tenant failed to identify any evidence supporting an equitable-estoppel bar to eviction. View "Shields Limited Partnership v. Bradeberry" on Justia Law

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Arbitration is a contractual agreement between parties. And only agreed-upon arbitrable disputes are subject to arbitration. On de novo review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found in this case a valid arbitration agreement, but the subject of the lessee’s premises-liability claim (a dispute that stemmed from a physical and sexual assault on the apartment complex premises) was not within the arbitration agreement’s scope, as it did not arise under or relate to her “occupancy and leasing of the [apartment].” Because the dispute was outside the agreement’s scope, the trial court erred by staying proceedings and ordering arbitration. View "Jane Doe v. Hallmark Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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In this summary process action, the trial court relied on the “spirit” of certain federal disability laws in support of an equitable defense to the eviction of Defendant, a tenant who kept an “emotional support dog” in her federally subsidized rental apartment despite a clause restricting pets that was included in her lease. Plaintiff appealed from the trial court’s judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) this appeal was not rendered moot when Plaintiff commenced an ancillary summary process action against Defendant, the filing of which had the effect of affirmatively reinstating Defendant’s tenancy; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by relying on the spirit of the federal regulations and by applying the doctrine of equitable nonforfeiture to support its equitable decision in favor of Defendant. View "Presidential Village, LLC v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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The faulty, inadequate, or defective work exclusion did not apply to the loss in this case. At issue in this appeal was the dismissal of Plaintiff’s action seeking to recover under an insurance policy for the loss of her house caused when a renter, who had an option to purchase the house, demolished it. The district court held that coverage for such loss was excluded under the policy. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Fisher v. Garrison Property & Casualty Ins" on Justia Law

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Mallets Bay Homeowner’s Association appealed the trial court’s partial denial of its motion to stay the issuance of a writ of possession in favor of Mongeon Bay Properties (MBP) following the termination of the Association’s ground lease. Members of the Mongeon family set up a partnership to own the land under approximately 25 camps, and the partnership entered into a ground lease with the Association, rather than the individual owners of each residence. The ground lease was due to expire in 2036. The lease contained a forfeiture clause, providing that the lease would terminate “if the [Association] shall fail to perform or comply with any terms of this Lease.” MBP sued the Association in January 2012, seeking damages and termination of the ground lease because the Association had failed to perform reasonable repairs and upkeep as required by the lease. The trial court concluded that the Association’s failure to properly maintain the property and the resulting damage amounted to “waste,” and therefore the Association had violated the lease. However, the trial court determined that terminating the lease under the default provision was inequitable and instead awarded MBP damages to cover the cost of repairing the property. On appeal, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the Association had breached the lease, but remanded for reconsideration of MBP’s remedy. In 2016, the Association requested that the trial court stay the issuance of a writ of possession, arguing there was good cause for the court to stay the writ until 2036, when the lease was set to expire. The trial court entered judgment in favor of MBP, terminated the ground lease, and held MBP was to be granted a writ of possession for the property. After review, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order in part, and remanded for the trial court to exercise its discretion. On remand, the question about which the trial court should exercise its discretion was whether to grant a longer stay than reflected in an October 31 order. The trial court could exercise that discretion on the basis of the parties’ pleadings, or decide to not hold any further hearings unless it chooses to. View "Mongeon Bay Properties, LLC v. Mallets Bay Homeowner's Assn., Inc." on Justia Law

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Nearly 20 years after defendants built, sold, and leased back a Rockport Indiana coal-burning power plant, they committed, in a consent decree resolving lawsuits involving alleged Clean Air Act violations at their other power plants, to either make over a billion dollars of emission control improvements to the plant, or shut it down. The sale and leaseback arrangement was a means of financing construction. Defendants then obtained a modification to the consent decree providing that these improvements need not be made until after their lease expired, pushing their commitments to improve the air quality of the plant’s emissions to the plaintiff, the investors who had financed construction and who would own the plant after the 33-year lease term. The district court held this encumbrance did not violate the parties’ contracts governing the sale and leaseback, and that plaintiff’s breach of contract claims precluded it from maintaining an alternative cause of action for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that a Permitted Lien exception in the lease unambiguously supports the plaintiff’s position and that the defendants’ actions “materially adversely affected’ plaintiff’s interests. View "Wilmington Trust Co. v. AEP Generating Co." on Justia Law

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The Lansaws operated a daycare in space leased from Zokaites. After they entered into a new lease with a different landlord, but before they moved, Zokaites served them with a Notice for Distraint, claiming a lien against personal property for unpaid rent. The following day, the Lansaws filed for bankruptcy, triggering the automatic stay, 11 U.S.C. 362(a). Zokaites’s attorney was notified of the filing on August 17, 2006. On August 21, Zokaites and his attorney entered the daycare during business hours, by following a parent, and photographed the Lansaws’ personal property. On August 27, Zokaites entered after business hours, using his key, then padlocked the doors, leaving a note stating that Zokaites would not unchain the doors unless Mrs. Lansaw’s mother agreed that she had not been assaulted by Zokaites, the Lansaws reaffirmed their lease with Zokaites, and the Lansaws ceased removing property from the daycare. The Lansaws removed the chains and slept in the building. Zokaites locked the door from the outside and left with the Lansaws’ keys. The Lansaws called the police. Meanwhile, Zokaites attorney communicated by phone and letter with the new landlord, stating that, if the new lease was not terminated, Zokaites would sue the new landlord. In an adversary proceeding, the Bankruptcy Court awarded the Lansaws attorney fees ($2,600), emotional-distress damages ($7,500) and punitive damages ($40,000) under 11 U.S.C. 362(k)(1). The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Section 362(k)(1) authorizes the award of emotional-distress damages; the Lansaws presented sufficient evidence to support the award. View "In re: Lansaw" on Justia Law

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The landlord filed a unlawful detainer action against Nancy, her adult son Donn, and Donn‘s wife Olga, alleging that they refused to vacate a unit in a building that was withdrawn from residential rental use pursuant the Ellis Act. (Gov. Code 7060). The trial court granted a motion to quash the complaint, finding that the landlord failed to tender a relocation payment to Donn and Olga‘s minor son David, as required by section 37.9A(e) of the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance. The landlord had paid each of the adults $2,632.55 and had given Nancy another $1,755.03, as payment of the first half of additional relocation payment due to her senior status. The appellate division of the superior court affirmed the trial court‘s order. The court of appeal reversed, holding that a minor displaced by an Ellis Act eviction is not a “tenant” under the Ordinance. The court distinguished between “lawful occupants” and “tenants.” View "Danger Panda, LLC v. Launiu" on Justia Law

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Tok Hwang owned a lessee interest in, and related improvements on, a commercial lot (the leasehold) near the Denali National Park entrance. Hwang leased the lot from a third party for $20,000 annually. Hwang subleased the leasehold to Alaska Fur Gallery, Inc. in April 2012. The sublease (the lease) provided that Alaska Fur would pay $55,000 annual rent for a three-summer term. The disputed provision stated, in full: “Lease includes an option to purchase premises with lease amount to be applied to negotiated purchase price.” When the sublessee attempted to exercise the option the lessee declined to sell, claiming the option was unenforceable. The sublessee sued, seeking, among other things, to enforce the option provision. The superior court held that the provision was too uncertain to enforce either as an option or as an agreement to negotiate. The sublessee appealed; but finding no reversible error in the superior court’s decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Alaska Fur Gallery, Inc. v. Hwang" on Justia Law