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Law School Case Brief

Beckett v. City of Paris Dry Goods Co. - 14 Cal. 2d 633, 96 P.2d 122 (1939)


A lease must include a definite description of the property leased and an agreement for rental to be paid at particular times during a specified term. Yet, where one goes into possession of premises under a contract containing an ambiguous or uncertain description of property to be occupied and pays the stipulated rent, it will be enforced as a lease if the parties acted upon it as relating to particular premises.


The defendant agreed in writing with the plaintiff, who was an optometrist, that the latter might, for a period of three years, conduct a first-class optical department in its large store. The space to be occupied at any time was to be designated by the defendant, which was to supply all light, heat, water, telephone and elevator service. Plaintiff agreed to furnish equipment, fixtures and show-cases conforming in style and finish with those used in the store, and to pay it 20 percent of his total monthly sales as consideration for the right to do business upon the conditions stated. After more than two years the store notified the doctor that it was cancelling their agreement. The store contended that the agreement was a license while the doctor claimed that it was a lease.


Did the trial court err when it allowed the doctor to recover damages for unlawful eviction?




The court held that a license was a personal, revocable, and unassignable permission to do one or more acts on the land of another without possessing any interest therein. The court concluded that no particular legal terminology was required in the making of a lease, but rather it was essential that the instrument show an intention to establish the relationship of landlord and tenant. The court found that throughout the agreement rights were given and language was used which definitely indicated that a lease was intended including language which forbid any assignment without the consent of the store. The court determined that the retention by the store of a certain amount of control over the management of the optical department, or the requirement that the doctor adhere to the rule and regulations governing its operations did not negate the intention of the parties that the agreement was a lease.

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