Landlord Must Pay Tenant’s Attorney’s Fees
What Happened: After bringing a successful anticipatory breach claim against it, a medical tenant sued the landlord for its legal fees citing the following lease provision:
In the event that Tenant must retain an attorney or successfully defend any action brought by or on behalf of Landlord, Landlord shall be liable for all reasonable attorney fees associated therewith and actually incurred.
The landlord argued it wasn’t on the hook, because the clause applied only to an actual, as opposed to anticipatory, lease violation. The lower court sided with the tenant, and the landlord appealed.
Decision: The New Jersey court affirmed that ruling and ordered the landlord to reimburse the tenant’s legal expenses.
Reasoning: The lease language, which also ran in the other direction by requiring the tenant to repay the landlord’s legal expenses in enforcing the lease, was clear and unambiguous, and the court refused to torture it to find some hidden meaning. The landlord was liable for legal expenses the tenant incurred in defending itself or asserting “any provision” of the lease, including an anticipatory breach, the court explained.
- Surgery v. Cernero Children's Trust & Jmc Mgmt. Group: 2019 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1373