Beckett v. City of Paris Dry Goods Case Brief

Summary of Beckett(pl) v. City of Paris Dry Goods, S. Ct. CA [1939]

Relevant Facts: Beckett was an optometrist who entered into a written agreement with the Df, to operate an optometry store within the df’s larger store property for three years. Df would supply the light, heat, water, telephone, and elevator services, while the PL would furnish equipment, fixtures, and show cases conforming in style and finish with those used in the main store. Rent was set on twenty percent of PL’s total month sales.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the contract between the parties is lease or a license to occupy the property?

Court’s Holding: A lease.

Procedure: Trail ct. judge awarded the Pl damages for unlawful eviction. Affirmed and modified as to costs.

Law or Rule(s): A lease must show an intention to establish the relationship of landlord and tenant. A lease must include a definite description of the property and an agreement for rental to be paid at particular times during a specified period. A license is a personal, revocable and unassignable permission to do one or more acts on the land of another without possessing any interest therein.

Court Rationale: Certain provisions of the agreement point to an intention that the relationship between the parties should be lessor and lessee. 1) the “space shall be delivered to second party in good, tenantable condition," 2) The Dr. shall have “the sole and exclusive right to conduct the optical department." 3) The Dr. was bound “to pay as a monthly rental a sum equivalent to twenty per cent of the total monthly sales of said department." 4) The parties use the term “lease," with a condition proscribing assignment without consent. The agreement contained uncertain and ambiguous description of property to be occupied. Prior cases, with similar facts, have determined that when an owner of real property allows another to conduct his own separate business in a stall or section of a store or lot thereby creates the relationship of landlord-tenant, not licensor-licensee.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The language and intentions of both parties renders the agreement a lease.

Defendant’s Argument: The agreement gave the Pl only license to use the premises. 1) No definite space was set apart for PL; 2) Df was given control over Pl’s advertising and management of PL’s accounts; and 3) PL agreed to discharge objectionable employees.

licensee – person who has privilege to enter upon land arising from permission or consent, express or implied, for his own purpose or interest, and not the owner’s.

It is a contract and a conveyance (transfer of interest), based on promises between a property owner and tenant(s).

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