As Landlord, Tenet Wins

This landlord-tenant dispute involved Tenet Health Systems and Live Oak, a group of doctors, as tenants.  Live Oak entered into a lease with Tenet for a five year period, expiring on June 30, 2006.  Live Oak claimed that, before the lease expired, Tenent successfully encouraged them to relocate to a new space in Frisco, Texas, with the promise that Tenet would find someone to take over the lease.  However, sometime after Live Oak abandoned the original lease and stopped making payments, Tenet demanded unpaid rent for that lease.

The Court of Appeals first found that the doctors who signed the lease were personally liable for unpaid rent under the lease agreement, because “[t]he objective intent of the parties, as expressed in the unambiguous language of the lease, was that those persons comprising Live Oak . . . would be jointly and severally responsible for Live Oak’s obligations under the lease.”

On a separate issue, Live Oak also argued that they had raised sufficient facts for their defenses of mitigation and estoppel to survive summary judgment because they had submitted an affidavit asserting that (1) Tenet had a willing tenant to take over the lease, but purposefully waited until the term expired before letting this new tenant take over and (2) Tenet had made promises to induce them to move to Frisco.  The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, holding that conclusory statements in an affidavit not based on personal knowledge cannot present sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment.

In dissent, Justice Lang-Miers disputed the holding that the doctors should be individually liable under the lease because the lease’s terms were ambiguous and the landlord could not show that its interpretation of the contract should control.

Live Oak v. Tenent Healthsystem Hospitals Dallas, Inc., No 05-11-00342 (majority)

Live Oak v. Tenent Healthsystem Hospitals Dallas, Inc., No. 05-11-00342 (dissent)


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