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Reste Realty Corp. v. Cooper

New Jersey Supreme Court
251 A.2d 268 (1969)


Facts

In 1958, Joy Cooper (defendant) leased a basement floor commercial space. She used the space for meetings and sales trainings. However, whenever it rained, water would leak into her leased space, often rendering the space unusable. Cooper would complain to Arthur Donigian, officer and managing agent of the lessor, who would then take steps to remove the water. Donigian was independently aware of the flooding issue as the files he kept in a furnace room on the basement level were kept on two-by-fours off the ground. When Cooper renegotiated a substitute lease for a larger space (still on the basement level), Donigian promised that the driveway above the office space would be resurfaced to fix the problem. Although the driveway was in fact resurfaced, the problem got worse. Cooper continued to complain to Donigian, who would take action to clean up the water. After Donigian died in March 1961, two years into the new five-year lease, no one would listen to Cooper’s complaints every time it rained. As a result, Cooper had to move some of her meetings elsewhere (incurring additional rent), reschedule meetings, or cancel them completely. On December 20, 1961, a meeting of sales representatives from four states was interrupted by five inches of rain on the floor. Thereafter Cooper saw an attorney, and by December 30, she submitted her notice to the lessor and abandoned the premises. In January 1962, Reste Realty Corp. (Reste) (plaintiff) acquired the building and an assignment of the lease interest. In November 1964, Reste sued Cooper for the unpaid rent between December 1961 (when Cooper vacated the premises) to March 1964 (the expiration of the lease period). The trial court found that Cooper had been constructively evicted and granted judgment in her favor. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that (1) there was no evidence showing that the landlord had done anything constituting a constructive eviction, and (2) even if it had, Cooper waived that defense by failing to vacate within a reasonable period of time. Cooper appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court .

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Holding and Reasoning (Francis, J.)

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