Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Defendant lessor appealed a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which allowed a recovery to plaintiff lessee in the lessee’s action to recover damages for breach of the lease for the failure of the lessor to sink an artesian well on the leased property that was sufficient for agricultural purposes.

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Overview

The lessor under the lease was to sink a second well for the lessee to irrigate his crops. Said well allegedly did not produce enough water for irrigation. The lessee, whose crops failed for lack of water, abandoned the land, possession of which was resumed by the lessor. The court reversed the amount of damages awarded. The court found, inter alia, that: (1) although the bare language of the lease did not state that the second well had to produce a certain amount of water, it had to be construed in the light of the knowledge of the parties and their understanding of the conditions present, such that under the lease the second well needed to produce adequate water for irrigation purposes; (2) no amount of water approaching an adequate supply was ever produced from any well up to the time the lessee elected to abandon the property after his crops failed; (3) the lessee could not recover damages for the rentals he paid where his claim did not stand upon the recision of the lease but rather its breach, such that he was entitled only to the prospective profits on the crops; and (4) it was improper to award damages for purchased feed because the crop damage compensated for such expense.

Outcome

The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, except as to the award of damages, which it reversed. The court ordered to a new trial as to the issues of damages.

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