Florida Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Commercial Landlord in Eviction Case
On December 18th, 2019, the Fourth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida ruled in favor of a commercial landlord in a complex eviction case. The landlord in question, which faced a claim of wrongful eviction, was seeking to recover damages through a third party guarantor. In Gulfstream Park Racing Association v. M1-V1 Inc, the court determined that both the tenant and its guarantor were legally liable for $200,000 in damages. Here, our West Palm Beach landlord-tenant litigation attorneys explain the decision from the Florida appeals court.
Case Analysis: Gulfstream Park Racing Association v. M1-V1 Inc
Background and Facts
Initially, the landlord and tenant agreed to a five-year lease. Under the terms of the lease, the tenant was given permission to operate a nightclub in the landlord’s property. The underlying dispute in this case initially arose when the commercial landlord advised the tenant that they needed to vacate the property. In response, the tenant filed a lawsuit, alleging an illegal eviction, claiming that the landlord changed the locks without proper notification. In response, the landlord filed a claim for breach of contract due to unpaid rent. Notably, the landlord included the ‘guarantor’ in its counterclaim.
The Legal Issue
From the start, the commercial landlord moved for summary judgment against the third party guarantor. In other words, the landlord sought to enforce the judgement against the party that co-signed the tenant’s lease. In its complaint, the landlord pointed to the fact that the guarantor had agreed to “absolutely and unconditionally” back the tenant’s obligations under the lease. As the tenant failed to meet its obligations, the landlord argued that the guarantor was legally liable for the unpaid rent.
In response, the guarantor attempted to raise an affirmative defense. It argued that the landlord engaged in a wrongful eviction—and, therefore, there was no liability. The trial court permitted the guarantor to raise this affirmative defense before the jury. It did so—and after hearing all issues, the jury, relying on the affirmative defense of wrongful eviction, did not hold the guarantor liable.
Upon reviewing the matter, the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed a key part of the ruling. According to the appeals court, once the trial court determined that the guarantor was liable for the tenant’s conduct, it erred by making separate liability assessments for the tenant and the guarantor. As the jury determined that the tenant was liable for $200,000 in damages, the guarantor, by proper application of the law, must be held liable for the same amount.
Call Our West Palm Beach, FL Commercial Landlord Attorney Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, we have extensive experience representing commercial landlords across a wide range of legal matters. If you or your company needs assistance with the eviction of a commercial tenant, our team can help. To arrange a confidential initial consultation, please call us at our West Palm Beach law office today. We also have office locations in Miami and Palm Beach Gardens for your convenience.