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Winternitz v. Summit Hills Joint Venture

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
532 A.2d 1089 (1987)


Winternitz (plaintiff) leased retail space from Summit Hills Joint Venture (Summit) (defendant). Summit employed a management company to manage the property, of which Frank was an officer and Harris was a property manager. Winternitz met with Frank to discuss renewal of the lease. Winternitz informed Frank that he intended to sell the company and inquired if there would be any objection to assigning the renewed lease. Frank said there would be no objection if the assignee was financially sound. Harris delivered a proposed, two-year lease with a renewal option to Winternitz. Winternitz agreed to its terms, including paying a higher rent per month. However, the proposed lease contained the word “SAMPLE” on the first and last pages and neither Harris nor Winternitz signed it. Harris informed Winternitz that there was no one available to sign at the time and instructed him to simply pay the increased rent and someone would sign the lease at some point in time. Winternitz paid the higher rent for at least one month. Winternitz later signed a contract to sell his business to the Suhs for $70,000. The contract stated that entering into the lease was a contingency of the contract. Harris reviewed the Suhs’ financial affairs and stated that she foresaw no problems with transferring the lease. Frank informed Winternitz that, as far as he knew, everything was okay with the proposed transfer. However, Frank later informed Winternitz that he had changed his mind and intended to negotiate his own lease with the Suhs. Frank informed Winternitz that he would neither renew Winternitz’s lease nor allow a transfer. A broker assisting Winternitz with selling the business spoke with Frank after learning that the lease would not be renewed. Frank told the broker “that under no circumstances would he give [Winternitz] a lease. He wants that man to walk out of that store without a dime.” Frank also informed the broker that he would give the Suhs a lease only if Winternitz “walks out with nothing.” Harris delivered an eviction notice to Winternitz. Due to his inability to transfer the lease, Winternitz renegotiated his contract with the Suhs. The purchase price of the renegotiated contract was $15,000. Winternitz filed suit, claiming breach of an oral contract, breach of the renewal and assignment leases, and interference with a contractual relationship. The jury returned a verdict in Winternitz’s favor. The trial judge granted a judgment N.O.V., holding that the Statute of Frauds made the lease renewal unenforceable. Winternitz appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wilner, J.)

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