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Confusing Appeal Fails
by Ron Davis

Was creating confusion part of the strategy of a Maryland shopping center tenant to avoid costly penalties related to her eviction? If so, that strategy hasn’t succeeded.

The shopping center, located in suburban Washington, DC, had leased space to the tenant for the operation of her medical practice. That lease contained the following provision:

“Landlord’s Termination Right: Landlord shall have the right, at any time, for any reason, to terminate this Lease…by providing 90 days written notice of such election….” Moreover, the lease provided that if the tenant doesn’t vacate in a timely manner, she must pay, after the 90-day grace period, a fee of $1,000 per day.

Three years into the five-year lease, the shopping center’s owners claimed the tenant had breached the lease contract. They subsequently sued her, claiming she owed them $73,119.98 in back rent and “occupancy fees.”

At the conclusion of the lawsuit, a Maryland court ruled in favor of the shopping center’s owners. The judge then instructed the tenant to pay them $95,000, representing the $73,119.98 claim plus attorney fees and court costs.

The tenant appealed that ruling. But in so doing, she apparently introduced certain arguments for the first time. And at the appellate-court level, such arguments are generally disallowed. Moreover, those arguments were extremely lengthy and violated certain other rules of appellate-court procedure.

Nevertheless, the tenant persisted, claiming that the shopping center’s owners engaged in fraudulent activities. She charged, for example, that the owners’ rent-collection efforts were inconsistent and that the “sudden” eviction of her was “nothing short of harassment.” Finally, she noted the irony that the center’s owners had begun negotiating with Wal-Mart Corp. as a tenant “at the time they were requesting daily occupancy fees of $1,000” from her.

The Maryland appellate court, in ruling in favor of the center’s owners, explained, “The tenant cites to no controlling law in support of her position. Moreover, she provides this court with no reference to the pages of the [lower-court] record supporting the factual assertions she quotes. That includes [charges of] ‘fraudulent behavior,’ ‘previous inconsistent behaviors,’ ‘sudden eviction,’ or ‘negotiations with Wal-Mart.’ Not only will we not delve through the record to unearth factual support for her, but we also will not seek out law to sustain her position.” (Rollins v. Capital Plaza Associates, L.P., 2008 WL 4117222 [Md.App.])

Decision: September 2008
Published: October 2008



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