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Posted by: Chandra Williams on Sep 24, 2015

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Marvin B. Berke and Jeremy M. Cothern, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellants, James Goins & Carpenter, P.C. and Stuart F. James.

Attorneys 2:

Scott M. Shaw, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, 817 Partnership.

Judge(s): SUSANO

In 2009, James Goins & Carpenter, P.C. (JGC) leased office space from 817 Partnership (817). JGC later decided to expand its law practice. It leased additional space in the same building from 817. Thereafter, a bank that had occupied the ground floor of the building moved out. Beginning in February 2011, Stuart F. James, an attorney with JGC, began raising concerns about security in the building. Over the course of the next few months, Mr. James repeatedly emailed 817’s representatives about security, the heating and air conditioning system, JGC’s financial problems, the need for a rent reduction, and a host of other issues. These emails eventually stopped; but in March 2013, Mr. James responded to a notice from 817 that JGC had missed rent payments. At that point, JGC’s security issues resurfaced in a series of emails Mr. James sent from March to May of 2013. Ultimately, Mr. James informed 817 that JGC was dissolving and would be vacating the premises well before its lease expired. As a result, 817 filed a detainer action in general sessions court against JGC and Mr. James (collectively the Defendants). The general sessions court granted 817 a judgment. The Defendants filed a “motion to reconsider,” which was denied. The Defendants subsequently appealed. On appeal to the trial court, the Defendants repeatedly failed to respond to 817’s discovery requests, precipitating multiple motions by 817 to compel and/or for sanctions. The Defendants filed a pleading alleging constructive eviction and demanding a jury trial. The trial court entered an order denying the jury demand pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 38.03. The trial court eventually sanctioned the Defendants and awarded 817 attorney’s fees and expenses. Finally, the trial court determined that the Defendants had waived the defense of constructive eviction and had breached the lease by failing to make multiple rent payments. The court filed a memorandum opinion and entered a final judgment in favor of 817 for $51,912.18, for unpaid rent, late fees, and interest under the lease. In addition, 817 received $49,815.47 to cover attorney’s fees and expenses. The Defendants appeal. We affirm.