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Leigh Furniture & Carpet Co. v. Isom

657 P.2d 293 (1982)

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Leigh Furniture & Carpet Co. v. Isom

Utah Supreme Court

657 P.2d 293 (1982)

Facts

In 1970, Leigh Furniture & Carpet Company (Leigh Company) (plaintiff) sold a furniture store to T. Richard Isom (defendant). The sale contract included a long-term lease for the store premises and gave Isom the option to purchase the entire building that housed the store once he paid the full balance due under the contract. In 1971, Leigh Company’s owner, W. S. Leigh, began complaining that Isom’s long-term lease and purchase option were preventing Leigh from selling the building. Over the next three years, Leigh, Leigh’s wife, and Leigh Company’s bookkeeper wrote letters to Isom and regularly visited Isom in the store during business hours to complain about how Isom was running the business. Leigh also filed two frivolous lawsuits against Isom, prevented Isom from associating with experienced furniture retailers, and repeatedly threatened to cancel the contract and sell the business to someone else. Isom’s customers began leaving the store, and Isom and his employees became demoralized. On February 24, 1975, Leigh Company sued Isom, seeking to repossess the store premises and terminate Isom’s interest under the sale contract. Three days later, before Isom learned about the lawsuit, Isom tendered the balance due under the contract and asked to exercise his purchase option. Leigh did not respond to Isom’s tender and told Isom’s lawyer that he would not permit the sale. When Isom’s lawyer accused Leigh of trying to destroy Isom’s business to reacquire the store and building for himself, Leigh did not deny it. Isom closed the business and declared bankruptcy shortly after being served with Leigh Company’s complaint. Isom then asserted a counterclaim in the lawsuit, alleging that Leigh Company had intentionally and maliciously forced Isom out of business. A jury found in Isom’s favor and awarded damages, and Leigh Company appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Oaks, J.)

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