Knowledge Is Power. Get Some.

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There is a story about a brilliant legal scholar who, after penning an outstanding legal analysis, would turn it over to his students for review and editing. He was asked why he would have young students do the editing instead of doing the work himself. After all, what could they know that he didn’t? How could they, even collectively, know better than he could know? He had a simple response: his students, at that moment, were engaged in the process of learning the very subject matter in the paper. Because their learning was “active,” they were more knowledgeable at that moment. The information was fresh in their minds. [Read more…]

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Two Lease Guarantees Gone Awry

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We wanted to a “hit and run” this week based on what we think is a peculiar and wrong court decision about language in a personal guaranty. Then, we came across a second court decision concerning a guaranty, though with no other connection to the “peculiar” one. Given that electrons are plentiful and essentially free, we’ve chosen to tell readers about the later-discovered one first.

The story begins with a 15-year lease that was assigned by the named tenant to a successor only five months after the lease terms started. In connection with that assignment, a guaranty was given to the landlord, one in which the guarantor guaranteed:

[T]he payment and performance by the [a]ssignee of all its obligations under the [l]ease and all of the obligations of the [t]enant as defined under the [l]ease effective as of the date hereof.

The awkwardness of that text is immaterial to what then happened. About 2-1/2 years later, the lease was further assigned. In connection with this second assignment, the guarantor, in a writing dated about a month later, “confirmed that its guarantee would remain in effect despite [this] assignment….” Then, about eight years after that, the shares of the then tenant were acquired by yet another “tenant,” actually the same one, but with a new shareholder. The parent company of the new shareholder guaranteed the tenant’s lease obligations, the landlord waived its right to cancel the lease by reason of the shareholder change, and, importantly, the landlord received another letter from the original, lease-signing tenant. That letter confirmed the ongoing validity of the original guaranty, using the following language: [Read more…]

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Zero-Based Thinking And Our Leases

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Recently, a 7- year old asked us a couple of questions. The first was: “How old will you have to be to drive a self-driving car?” The second was: “Will you need a driver’s license.” Our immediate, gut thought was that one won’t really “drive” such a car. You’d be a passenger. We’re not thinking about transitional vehicles; we’re thinking about fully-functional ones without driver controls. Then, upon reflection, all of this taking place before we uttered a response, we “knew” that states will set a “driving” age and require a license. Even after we get to control-less vehicles, those requirements, already in place, will exist for at least many years. [Read more…]

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Don’t Believe What I Told You Clauses

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Here’s a story with a few different lessons. One aspect of it won’t be of great utility to our readers, so we’ll get it out of the way right now. The tenant in this story appeared to sign a lease without counsel and without fully reading it. We don’t think that aspect casts any shade on the lessons we’ll be covering, but keep the tenant’s approach in mind as you read the rest of today’s blog posting.

The owner of a successful chain of quick-service, ethnic restaurants developed a new concept – a mall restaurant that would sell gourmet hot dogs. W.C. Fields might have called those “Gourmet Tube Steaks,” but that’s for another industry’s blogs. He honed in on a large mall, one that only had three remaining spaces in what appeared to be its food court (though the court never explicitly identified it as such). One of the existing tenants in that food court was a well-known, national, premium hamburger quick-service restaurant. No, it wasn’t the one with the golden arches. Although that hamburger restaurant sold hot dogs, they were only a sideline. So, this was of no concern to the owner’s gourmet hot dog plans. [Read more…]

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Maybe A Certificate Of Insurance Is Actually Worth Something

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By now, almost everyone knows that an Acord Certificate of Insurance isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. [Click HERE if you need to see why they think so.] Why, however, “almost”? Who doesn’t know that? Well, that would be the Supreme Court of Washington. A little while ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal one) wasn’t sure about Washington state law, so it “certified” that question to the State of Washington’s highest court. Certifying such a question is when a federal court poses a question of pure law to a state’s highest level court, asking it: “what is your state’s law.” [Read more…]

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What’s In A Name When It Comes To Sending An Extension Notice?

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We just looked at a court decision about a lease renewal notice and can’t make up our mind what we think about the result or about the wisdom of the issue having been litigated in the first place. We’ll begin with the story and conclude with the “wisdom” part.

A national retail chain store had an important lease in a big city. The initial lease term was ending, but there was a 5- year extension term available upon the tenant’s sending of proper notice. It seems that the agreed-upon extension term rent was, in the aggregate, $3 million below what the then-market rent would have been. To most of us, that’s “big bucks.” In hindsight, a savvy landlord would regret making such a deal. Some might even be willing to spend some money to thwart or, let’s say, resist, a tenant’s efforts to exercise such an extension option. If, perhaps, there was only an 8-1/3% chance of doing so, would one spend $250,000? That’s 8-1/3% of $3 million. In the Appellate Court of Illinois decision (of August 26, 2019) we just read that is what happened. The landlord spent $125,000 (or so) to cover its successful tenant’s legal fees, and (presumably) a similar amount for its own fees (or, possibly less – we don’t really know). It lost. [Read more…]

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Who Wrote Your Lease, Loan Agreement, Or Other Document?

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“A committee is a cul-de-sac into which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled” — Sir Barnett Cocks. Much the same can be said about the documents we read and, sadly, write. Sir Cocks didn’t necessarily mean only that ideas were strangled to death. We want to think he also was thinking about damaged survivors, the ones that survived, but with a life-long injury.

Think about the process we follow to create a written agreement, whether that is a lease, an easement, a loan agreement or any of the others we, Ruminators, can list. In most cases, we start with a form written by predecessors. The words in those forms aren’t “ours.” The “voice” isn’t “ours.” In some cases, we cut and paste from a selection of related forms, each with its own voice. Then, we modify this “base” document, adapting it to the deal in front of us. In simple cases, we fill in some blanks, delete some provisions, and add a few. In others, we make significant changes, some to the very core or philosophy of what the form’s original authors had in mind. Our additions might have been written solely from our own thoughts; they are never tabula rasa (def.: an absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals); they never are. In fact, our additions often are snippets from something else we or others have written. [Note that we’ve written “authors,” not just author. That’s because our selected foundational document or document very likely was put together in the same way we are describing.] [Read more…]

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Purchase Rights And Poison Pills

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There is so much to say about purchase rights: straightforward ones, rights of first refusal, rights of first offer, rights of last offer, and rights of first notice). There is so little time to do so. [For those with time to spare, click HERE for a primer.]

Very often, a contractarian approach is taken by courts when exploring contract terms. After all, absent overreaching in one form or another by one party, those participating in commercial transactions are believed to be grown-ups. That is, they are expected to understand the impact of their agreements and to abide by the consequences. However, there are exceptions. Today, as we describe a New York court’s protecting a party’s right of first refusal to purchase a property, we get yet another opportunity to drag out a well-worn Ruminations’ topic: The Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. [Read more…]

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