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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Sep 29, 2014

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Allan Wilson Wages, Millington, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bringle Farms Partnership.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Joseph F. Whalen, Acting Solicitor General, and Melissa Brodhag, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

This is a breach of contract case arising from a crop lease entered into between a farming entity and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (“the TWRA”). The five-year lease required the lessee to pay rent for the right to farm the land; however, the lessee would receive a credit provided he timely planted and harvested an agreed upon amount and type of waterfowl food crop to feed wildlife. The lessee would also receive a credit for providing agreed upon “in-kind services.” After the second year, the TWRA terminated the lease for, inter alia, non-payment of rent, failure to timely plant crops, and failure to remove trash. The lessee filed this claim alleging the TWRA wrongfully terminated the five-year lease with three years remaining for which it sought damages for lost profits. The TWRA counterclaimed for unpaid rent and damage to the property. The claims commission found the TWRA did not terminate the lease for cause; therefore, the lessee was entitled to seek damages for lost profits; however, the commission found the lessee failed to prove its damages. As for the TWRA’s counterclaims, the commission found the lease ambiguous regarding the payment of rent, and after considering parol evidence, it determined the parties intended the performance of in-kind services would reduce the rent to zero. Therefore, the commission denied the TWRA’s counterclaim for unpaid rent. As for damage to the property, the commission found the lessee damaged the property for which it awarded the TWRA $1,743.30. Both parties appealed. We have concluded the TWRA terminated the lease for cause due to material breaches by the lessee; therefore, the lessee is not entitled to damages. We have also concluded that the lease provision regarding rent and in-kind services is unambiguous and that the lessee failed to provide in-kind services sufficient to offset all of the rent that was owing; therefore, the TWRA is entitled to recover the balance owed on the rent. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.