Tennessee Traders Landing, LLC v. Jenkins & Stiles, LLC

Tennessee Traders Landing, LLC v. Jenkins & Stiles, LLC
E2017-00948-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a dispute concerning the validity of an oral agreement to rescind a written commercial lease agreement. In May 2011, the plaintiff company entered into a written lease, agreeing to rent a commercial building to the defendant company for a set term of three years and nine months. The lease provided for the first nine months of tenancy without rental payments, setting rental payments at $2,250.00 per month for the remainder of the initial term. At some time during the latter part of 2011, the two companies’ respective presidents purportedly met and mutually agreed to terminate and rescind the lease. The presidents’ agreement was never memorialized in writing, however, and the lease contained a provision that prevented any oral modification to the contract. Neither company thereafter acted in accordance with the lease until November 24, 2015, when the plaintiff’s new president contacted the defendant in writing, demanding thirty-six months of unpaid rent in addition to a five-percent late fee pursuant to the lease, for a total of $85,050.00. The defendant did not tender any payment to the plaintiff as requested. On May 17, 2016, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Knox County Chancery Court (“trial court”), alleging unpaid rent and requesting an award of rent payments, late fees, and reasonable attorney’s fees. The defendant filed an answer, asserting, inter alia, that the lease was invalid as a result of the oral rescission by mutual agreement in 2011. Upon cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, awarding a monetary judgment in the amount of $92,208.75, representing an $81,000.00 balance of unpaid rent, $4,050.00 in late fees, and $7,158.75 in reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses. The defendant filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, which the trial court denied. The defendant has appealed. Having determined that the lease did not prohibit an oral rescission by mutual agreement, we reverse the grant of summary judgment to TTL. Having also determined that a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether TTL’s former president possessed the authority to orally rescind the lease, we affirm the denial of summary judgment to J&S and remand for evidentiary proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Authoring Judge: 
Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Originating Judge: 
Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.
Date Filed: 
Monday, July 9, 2018