A tenant leases a building in State A for use as a grocery store. The tenant is a corporation and a citizen of State B. The landlord and owner of the building is also a corporation, a citizen of State A. The parties negotiated and executed the lease at the tenant’s offices in State B.
A customer slips and falls in the store; she is badly injured. The customer sues the tenant and obtains a valid, final judgment for $200,000. The tenant foregoes an appeal and pays the judgment. Water leaking from the roof of the store caused the accident. It collected on the floor and created a hazard. The tenant believes that the landlord failed to maintain the roof, in violation of the lease, and that this led to the slip-and-fall. The tenant therefore believes that the lease requires the landlord to indemnify the tenant for the judgment paid to the customer.
The tenant accordingly sues the landlord in the U.S. District Court for the District of State B, seeking indemnity under the lease. Assume the court has personal jurisdiction over the landlord. In response, the landlord moves to dismiss the case for improper venue. The landlord also moves for summary judgment, arguing that the tenant’s suit is barred by claim preclusion, because the tenant should have impleaded the landlord in the customer’s lawsuit. Assume that both motions are timely and properly brought, but the judge denies both.
At the pretrial conference, the judge asks the parties to submit proposed jury instructions. The tenant plans to call an expert witness to testify about the maintenance and condition of the store’s roof. To that end, the tenant submits a proposed jury instruction on witness credibility, which contains the following sentence: “As triers of fact, you may choose to believe or disbelieve the testimony of any witness, including any expert witness.”
The landlord submits its own proposed instruction on witness credibility, which includes the following sentences: “You should not believe an expert witness simply because he or she is an expert. You may consider your own impression of the witness in determining credibility.” Assume that both requested instructions accurately state the applicable law. The judge delays ruling on the competing jury instructions until trial.
Before closing arguments, the judge excuses the jury and tells the parties which jury instructions the judge will present. These include the tenant’s proposed instruction on witness credibility, and not the landlord’s proposed instruction. The landlord does not object at this time.
The jury returns a verdict in favor of the tenant, and the judge enters judgment on the verdict. The landlord files a timely motion for a new trial. Among the landlord’s arguments is that the judge should have given the landlord’s requested instruction on witness credibility instead of the tenant’s requested instruction. In opposing the motion, the tenant argues that the landlord may not raise this issue, because the landlord failed to preserve any objection to the disputed jury instruction.
- Was the judge correct to deny the landlord’s motion to dismiss for improper venue? Explain.
- Was the judge correct to deny the landlord’s motion for summary judgment? Explain.
- Ignoring the landlord’s pretrial motions, has the landlord waived any challenge to the disputed jury instruction? Explain.