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Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Kaminsky

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant leased an office from Plaintiff. Protesters began protesting outside Defendant’s office. Defendant complained to Plaintiff and asked Plaintiff to tell the protestors to leave. Plaintiff did not deliver the notice to the protestors, but solely stayed aware of the issue. Defendant left the premises and stopped paying rent. Plaintiff brought suit for the balance of the lease. The jury found for Defendant on the grounds that Plaintiff constructively evicted him from the premises.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When a landlord fails to act, after a tenant has made repeated request to protect his or her right of quiet enjoyment of the land, may constitute constructive eviction.

    Facts.

    Defendant, Dr. Robert Kaminsky, leased office space from Plaintiff, Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company on May 1983. The lease had an express covenant of Defendant’s quiet enjoyment of the premises, which was conditional to Defendant’s proper rent payments. Likewise, the lease contained a provision that required Plaintiff to provide security services on Saturday. June 1984, anti-abortion protesters began to picket outside Defendant’s office. The majority of these protests took place on Saturday, when Defendant had abortion appointments scheduled. The protest intensified and, at times, the protesters entered into his office building and blocked the patients from entering. Defendant complained to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff did not provide any security to Defendant. Plaintiff’s attorneys sole instructed its agents to deliver notices to the protestors, which were never actually delivered. Thus, Plaintiff’s only response to the situation was to tell its agents that Plaintiff was aware of the problem. Defendant sought assistance through the sheriff’s department, but the officers refused to request the protestors to leave unless Plaintiff’s agents directed them to leave. Defendant abandoned the premises and stopped paying rent on December 3, 1984. Plaintiff sued for the balance of the lease, and Defendant contends the Plaintiff constructively evicted him. The jury found for Defendant, Plaintiff appealed on the grounds that Defendant was not constructively evicted because he was not permanently deprived of the use and enjoyment of the land. 

    Issue.

    Whether a landlord failure to act, after a tenant has made repeated request to protect his or her right of quiet enjoyment of the land, may constitute constructive eviction

    Held.

    Yes, a landlord failure to act, after a tenant has made repeated request to protect his or her right of quiet enjoyment of the land, may constitute constructive eviction

    Discussion.

    To succeed on a constructive eviction claim, the tenant must prove that he or she is not capable of enjoying the property, the landlord or his or her agents have acted or omitted to act in a manner that significantly interferes with the use and enjoyment of the land for the leased purpose, the act or omission caused the tenant to be permanently deprived of the use and enjoyment of the land, and the tenant abandoned the land after the act or omission within a reasonable time. Interference by a third party on the premise of the tenant may constitute an omission. In this case, Plaintiff did not block the protestors or stop them from having access to Defendant’s leased property. Therefore, Plaintiff’s omission constituted a constructive eviction because it caused Defendant to be permanently deprived of the use and enjoyment of the land for his leased purposes, an office.


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