Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
Rohrmoos Venture v. UTSW DVA Healthcare, LLP
The Supreme Court held that, under David v. Inwood North Professional Group-Phase I, 747 S.W.2d 373 (Tex. 1988), a tenant can terminate a commercial lease contract for the landlord's prior material breach and that the evidence offered to prove attorney's fees in this case was insufficient for fee-shifting awards.After terminating its lease early and vacating the premises while still owing unpaid rent a commercial tenant (Tenant) sued Landlord for breach of contract and breach of the implied warranty of suitability and also sought a declaratory judgment. The jury found that Landlord materially breached the lease agreement first, Landlord breached the implied warranty of suitability, and Tenant had the right to terminate the lease agreement. The trial court awarded Tenant attorney's fees. The court of appeals affirmed. After explaining the prevailing party's evidentiary burden and the standard for shifting reasonable and necessary attorney's fees to the non-prevailing party, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment as to the attorney's fee award but otherwise affirmed, holding (1) a commercial tenant can terminate a commercial lease based on the landlord's prior material breach; but (2) the evidence used to prove attorney's fees was not legally sufficient to support the fee award. View "Rohrmoos Venture v. UTSW DVA Healthcare, LLP" on Justia Law
Shields Limited Partnership v. Bradeberry
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
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Forte
The Texas Optometry Act prohibits commercial retailers of ophthalmic goods from attempting to control the practice of optometry; authorizes the Optometry Board and the Attorney General to sue a violator for a civil penalty; and provides that “[a] person injured as a result of a violation . . . is entitled to the remedies. In 1992, Wal-Mart opened “Vision Centers” in its Texas retail stores, selling ophthalmic goods. Wal-Mart leased office space to optometrists. A typical lease required the optometrist to keep the office open at least 45 hours per week or pay liquidated damages. In 1995, the Board advised Wal-Mart that the requirement violated the Act. Wal-Mart dropped the requirement and changed its lease form, allowing the optometrist to insert hours of operation. In 1998, the Board opined that any commercial lease referencing an optometrist’s hours violated the Act; in 2003, the Board notified Wal-Mart that it violated the Act by informing optometrists that customers were requesting longer hours. Optometrists sued, alleging that during lease negotiations, Wal-Mart indicated what hours they should include in the lease and that they were pressured to work longer hours. They did not claim actual harm. A jury awarded civil penalties and attorney fees. The Fifth Circuit certified the question of whether such civil penalties, when sought by a private person, are exemplary damages limited by the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 41. The Texas Supreme Court responded in the affirmative, noting that “the certified questions assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the Act authorizes recovery of civil penalties by a private person, rather than only by the Board or the Attorney General.” View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Forte" on Justia Law
Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. White
After Tenant moved into her apartment, her apartment and several adjoining units were severely damaged in a fire that originated in Tenant’s clothes dryer. Insurer paid Landlord’s insurance claim and then sued Tenant for negligence and breach of the Apartment Lease Contract. The jury found that Tenant breached the lease agreement and awarded $93,498 in actual damages and attorney’s fees from Insurer. Tenant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, asserting several grounds for avoiding enforcement of the contract. The trial court granted Tenant’s motion and rendered a take-nothing judgment. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the residential-lease provision imposing liability on Tenant for property losses resulting from “any other cause not due to [the landlord’s] negligence or fault” was void and unenforceable because it broadly and unambiguously shifted liability for repairs beyond legislatively authorized bounds. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals properly rejected Tenant’s ambiguity defense; but (2) the court of appeals erred in invalidating the lease provision on public-policy grounds. Remanded. View "Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. White" 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
Evans v. Unit 82 Joint Venture
A corporation (Infodisc) and one of its subsidiaries (M-TX) defaulted on a loan from a bank. A California court placed the borrowers in receivership to liquidate their assets securing the loan, and an ancillary receivership was opened in Texas. Meanwhile, another Infodisc subsidiary, a California corporation (M-CA), declared bankruptcy. The receiver claimed and sold property in a Texas warehouse that the Landlord alleged was not leased to Infodisc or M-TX but to M-CA. The parties disputed who the tenant was and who owned the property and fixtures in the warehouse. After the trial court rejected almost all of the Landlord's claims, the Landlord appealed. The court vacated the trial court's judgment and dismissed the case, holding that the proceedings violated the automatic stay even though M-CA was not a party to the case. The Supreme Court granted review and reversed, holding that the court of appeals should have abated the appeal to allow the application of the automatic stay to be determined by the trial court in the first instance. Remanded. View "Evans v. Unit 82 Joint Venture" on Justia Law
Ashford Partners, Ltd. v. ECO Resources, Inc.
This was an appeal from a judgment awarding tenant damages for a landlord's breach of a construction-related duty under a build-to-suit lease agreement. The tenant sued asserting that the landlord's failure to adhere to construction plans resulted in a substandard building, diminishing the value of its leasehold. On appeal, the court agreed with the landlord that the cost of repair was the appropriate measure under the circumstances of the case. Because under the appropriate measure, there was no evidence that the tenant had been damaged, the court reversed. View "Ashford Partners, Ltd. v. ECO Resources, Inc." on Justia Law