Monday, January 6, 2014

United States of America v. Epstein case brief

United States of America v. Epstein case brief summary
27 F. Supp. 2d. 404 (1998)

Plaintiff government lessor (lessor) brought an action to evict defendants, lessee and subtenants (lessees) from a building formerly used as a home of a deputy consul general. The lessor obtained possession to the property pursuant to the Foreign Mission Act, 22 U.S.C.S. § 4301 et seq., and then subleased the property allegedly without permission, and the sublessee then sublet the property. The lessees brought a motion for summary judgment.

The lessees claimed the lessor orally consented to subleasing, and the lessor did not terminate the lease as the lessor breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealings by unreasonably withholding written consent to the original lessees' sublease request.

  • The court rejected the claims and found under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) the lessor had the burden to prove there was no genuine issue of material fact. 
  • The court held the contract had to be interpreted to determine the parties' intent, and the lease clearly required advance written notice of the lessor to sublet premises. 
  • The court needed to determine whether federal contract law or state law applied and under state law when a lease required a tenant to obtain prior written consent of the landlord to sublet or assign leased premises. 
  • A landlord may have refused consent arbitrarily unless lease stated the landlord might not have unreasonably withheld consent. 
  • The court held state law applied as there was no federal statutory or common-law of landlord and tenant, landlord-tenant law was traditionally a matter of state law and between general federal contract principles and specific landlord-tenant law, the latter applied.
The court granted the lessor's motion for summary judgment on its claim of ejectment.

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