Online Business Reputation and Defamation Cases: Part 4 Breach of Contract Cause of Action: Trial Level

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Business Litigation Attorney

In this series I have discussed a case that involved a business claiming online business reputation and defamation caused by Yelp posts believed to have been written by the defendant. In Part 3 I discussed the four general elements that must be proven to establish a defamation of character claim, as well as examined the Yelp evidence and the court’s view of it.

Remember many lawsuits can contain anywhere from one, or more additional contract and business tort claims.  The court deals with each claim separately.  In this case, the court had to deal with a series of contract claims which principally alleged that the landlord breached the terms of the lease that were agreed upon in the lease agreement with the tenant. Then the plaintiff added additional causes of action including: breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

A covenant of quiet enjoyment means that in every landlord tenant lease agreement it is implied or assumed that the tenant will be able to use his or her premises without interruption.  So jackhammering by an annoying landlord asking for access to the tenant’s property is, on the face of it, a breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.  The covenant of good faith and fair dealing also would seem to be breached since the landlord did not act in good faith or in a very fair manner, considering he served several notices to quit to tenants that were very responsible and compliant.

The plaintiff, told the court about all of the ways her business was interrupted by the defendant’s activities.  There were days of incessant jackhammering.  She testified that she believed her hearing was being damaged by this conduct.  The defendant tried to inspect and videotape her business.  The landlord also sent several notices requiring her to obtain permits for selling rugs, her rug drying racks, and ventilation systems.  The notices informed her that if she did not comply with his demands, that she would be forced to leave the space.

In landlord tenant disputes, the reasonableness and willingness to cooperate and compromise are always taken into consideration by a jury.  Plaintiff was rigorously questioned as to why she did not attempt to work things out with the owner, the defendant, before she resorted to getting orders from the court.

Conversely, the plaintiffs’ counsel asked, for example, why, if the defendant knew about the drying racks several months before when he had initially leased the premises to her, did he choose to serve the fifteen-day notices to comply or leave the premises?  The defendant claimed that he had limited access to the plaintiff’s leased property.  The jury concluded the defendant would not have suffered economic damages had plaintiff not complied with the several notices he served upon on her.

After everything was all said and done, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant for over $200,000 dollars with attorney’s fees included.  The defendant prevailed on all claims.

To discuss your NJ Real Estate & Business Litigation Dispute matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.

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