Law School Case Brief
Fitzwilliam v. 1220 Iroquois Venture - 233 Ill. App. 3d 221, 174 Ill. Dec. 371, 598 N.E.2d 1003 (1992)
The interpretation of a contract, where no factual dispute exists, is a question of law properly decided on a motion for summary judgment. In reviewing the granting of summary judgment, an appellate court's function is to determine whether the trial court correctly finds that no genuine issue of material fact exists and whether judgment is correctly entered for the moving party as a matter of law. As a question of law, an appellate court may interpret a contract independently of a trial court's judgment.
The tenants, F. John Fitzwilliam and Alice Fitzwilliam, leased certain commercial property from the landlord. The term of the lease was to extend through December 31, 1989. Though the tenants indicated they would not renew the lease, they gave notice to the landlord that the fact that furniture and equipment would be moved off the premises did not mean they were abandoning the premises prior to December 31. On November 17, the landlord's workmen entered the premises to redecorate them. The tenant brought suit alleging constructive eviction. The landlord counterclaimed for attorney's fees. The lower court granted the landlord's motion for summary judgment and denied the tenant's motion for summary judgment on its claims.
Did the lower court correctly enter summary judgment in defendant's favor except as to the issue of the interpretation of the lease pertaining to tax prorations?
On appeal, the Court held that (1) the lease provision permitting the landlord to enter the premises to decorate or make improvements was unambiguous, (2) the landlord's entry did not constitute a constructive eviction or permit the tenants to terminate or abate their rental payments even if loss or interruption of their business occurred, (3) the trial court erred in concluding the landlord was entitled to retain 1990 real estate tax prorations, and (4) the landlord was entitled to recover attorney fees.
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