Village Commons, LLC v. Marion County Prosecutor’s Office

882 N.E.2d 210 (2008)

Quick Summary

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Village Commons, LLC and Rynalco, Inc. (plaintiffs) leased space to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office (defendant). Water damage and health concerns led to MCPO’s departure and cessation of rent payments. The Landlord sued for breach of lease, and MCPO counterclaimed for wrongful eviction.

The core issue was whether an exclusive-remedy lease provision could bar eviction claims.

The appellate court concluded that actual and constructive eviction terminated rent obligations despite such clauses, affirming wrongful eviction and rejecting untimeliness arguments against MCPO.

Facts of the Case

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Village Commons, LLC and Rynalco, Inc. (plaintiffs) entered into a lease agreement with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) (defendant) for office and evidence storage space in August 1999. The lease was set for a period of seven years and five months, with graduated payment obligations. Under the agreement, the Landlord was responsible for maintaining the premises in good order.

However, beginning in 2001, the property experienced significant water leaks, causing damage to the premises and the evidence stored by the MCPO. Despite efforts to repair, the leaks persisted, leading to concerns about mold and health risks. Ultimately, the MCPO vacated the building in January 2003 and ceased rent payments.

The Landlord sued for breach of lease, and the MCPO counterclaimed for wrongful eviction, arguing that the water issues constituted a breach of their lease agreement. The trial court sided with the MCPO, finding that they had been both actually and constructively evicted due to the Landlord’s failure to address the water intrusions effectively. The Landlord appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

Procedural Posture and History

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  1. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office leased premises from Village Commons, LLC and Rynalco, Inc.
  2. Water leaks began occurring in 2001, leading to damage and mold concerns.
  3. The MCPO vacated the premises in January 2003 and stopped paying rent.
  4. The Landlord filed a lawsuit for breach of lease against the MCPO.
  5. The MCPO counterclaimed for wrongful eviction.
  6. The trial court found in favor of the MCPO.
  7. Village Commons, LLC appealed to the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

I.R.A.C. Format


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  • Whether the exclusive-remedy provision of the lease barred the MCPO from asserting that it was evicted by acts or omissions of the Landlord.
  • Whether the MCPO’s defenses and counterclaims were timely.

Rule of Law

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An actual eviction occurs when a tenant is deprived of possession and beneficial use of any part of the leased premises. A constructive eviction occurs when a landlord’s act or omission materially deprives the tenant of beneficial enjoyment of the premises. If eviction is established, either actual or constructive, it terminates the tenant’s obligation to pay rent.

Reasoning and Analysis

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment that exclusive-remedy provisions did not preempt defenses based on wrongful eviction. The court determined that eviction, whether actual or constructive, is not an action initiated by a tenant but a consequence of a landlord’s failure to uphold their end of a lease agreement.

As such, eviction extinguishes future rent obligations regardless of exclusive-remedy clauses that limit a tenant’s ability to terminate a lease or withhold rent. The court found substantial evidence supporting repeated and un-remedied water intrusions that justified the MCPO’s claim of eviction.

Additionally, the court rejected the argument that the MCPO’s defense and counterclaim were untimely since they were raised in response to the Landlord’s lawsuit rather than requiring proactive litigation by the MCPO after being wrongfully evicted.


Conclusion Icon

The appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision that the MCPO had been wrongfully evicted and was therefore not liable for unpaid rent following their departure from the premises. Moreover, it confirmed that such an eviction defense was not barred by an exclusive-remedy provision or time limitation in the lease agreement.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Exclusive-remedy provisions in leases do not preclude tenants from asserting eviction defenses.
  2. Actual and constructive evictions terminate a tenant’s obligation to pay future rent.
  3. Defenses based on wrongful eviction are not subject to lease-imposed time limitations when raised in response to a landlord’s lawsuit.

Relevant FAQs of this case

What is the legal threshold for a landlord's breach of duty that leads to constructive eviction?

The legal threshold for a landlord’s breach leading to constructive eviction is reached when the landlord’s act or omission substantially impairs the tenant’s right to use and enjoy the leased premises. This must be of such a degree that it renders the space unfit for the purpose it was leased or significantly diminishes the tenant’s enjoyment of the property.

  • For example: If a tenant rents a space for a restaurant, but the landlord fails to fix recurring sewage backups despite complaints, this could constitute constructive eviction as it impairs the operation and patron experience vital to the restaurant’s business.

What constitutes an actual eviction as opposed to a constructive eviction?

An actual eviction occurs when a tenant is physically expelled from or denied entry to the premises, whereas a constructive eviction results from a landlord’s negligence or failure to maintain the property, leading to conditions that force the tenant to leave without direct expulsion.

  • For example: Changing locks without notice would be an actual eviction, while neglecting repairs causing hazardous conditions that make continued occupation impossible would be constructive eviction.

How do exclusive-remedy clauses in lease agreements affect tenant rights in case of breach by the landlord?

Exclusive-remedy clauses typically limit a tenant’s options to address breaches by the landlord, but they generally cannot deprive tenants of all remedies, particularly their right to assert eviction defenses if the landlord materially fails to comply with lease obligations.

  • For example: If a lease stipulates that maintenance requests must be addressed only through specific procedures, this does not prevent a tenant from claiming constructive eviction if those procedures fail and unaddressed issues make the premises uninhabitable.


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