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CamargoCopeland Architects, L.L.P. v. CRT Signature Place, L.P.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

December 11, 2013

CAMARGOCOPELAND ARCHITECTS, L.L.P., Appellant
v.
CRT SIGNATURE PLACE, L.P., Appellee

Submitted: November 18, 2013

On Appeal from the 68th District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court No. DC-12-09362

Before Morriss, C.J., Carter and Moseley, JJ.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Jack Carter Justice

CRT Signature Place, L.P. (CRT), sued CamargoCopeland Architects, L.L.P. (Camargo), for breach of a lease agreement. The 68th Judicial District Court of Dallas County granted summary judgment in favor of CRT and awarded $515, 059.68 in actual damages.[1] Camargo challenges the court's ruling on appeal, arguing that CRT's proof of the damage element "does not constitute competent summary judgment proof" because the affidavit relied on was "conclusory in nature." We disagree with Camargo's assertion that the "only summary judgment evidence . . . was the Affidavit of Lisa Donovan" or that Donovan's affidavit was conclusory, find that the record sufficiently established CRT's damages claims, and affirm the trial court's judgment.

A traditional motion for summary judgment is granted only when the movant establishes that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Mann Frankfort Stein & Lipp Advisors, Inc. v. Fielding, 289 S.W.3d 844, 848 (Tex. 2009). We review de novo the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment "to determine whether a party's right to prevail is established as a matter of law." Lamar Corp. v. City of Longview, 270 S.W.3d 609, 613 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2008, no pet.); see Nash v. Beckett, 365 S.W.3d 131, 136 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2012, pet. denied) (citing Fielding, 289 S.W.3d at 848).

When reviewing the grant of a traditional summary judgment, we take as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant and indulge every reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor. Limestone Prods. Distrib., Inc. v. McNamara, 71 S.W.3d 308, 311 (Tex. 2002); Rhone–Poulenc, Inc. v. Steel, 997 S.W.2d 217, 223 (Tex. 1999). On appeal, the movant must show that there is no material fact issue and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. McNamara, 71 S.W.3d at 311; Steel, 997 S.W.2d at 223; City of Houston v. Clear Creek Basin Auth., 589 S.W.2d 671 (Tex. 1979).

To prevail on its claim for unpaid rent, CST was required to prove (1) the existence of a valid contract, (2) its performance or tendered performance, (3) Camargo's breach of the contract, and (4) damages as a result of the breach. See Stovall & Assocs., P.C. v. Hibbs Fin. Ctr., Ltd., 409 S.W.3d 790, 797 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2013, no pet. h.) (citing Paragon Gen. Contractors, Inc. v. Larco Constr., Inc., 227 S.W.3d 876, 882 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2007, no pet.)). Only the last element is at issue in this case.

"To defeat a plaintiff's cause of action on a traditional motion for summary judgment, the defendant must either 'conclusively negate an element of the plaintiff's claim or conclusively establish every element of an affirmative defense."' Id. at 795 (quoting Ohio Cas. Ins. Co. v. Time Warner Entm't Co., L.P., 244 S.W.3d 885, 888 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, pet. denied)). "A matter is conclusively established if ordinary minds cannot differ as to the conclusion to be drawn from the evidence." Id. (citing Holloway v. Dekkers, 380 S.W.3d 315, 320 (Tex. App.— Dallas 2012, no pet.)). "The defendant, however, is not required to respond with evidence if deficiencies in the plaintiff's own proof or legal theories will defeat the movant's right to judgment as a matter of law." Id. (citing Clear Creek Basin Auth., 589 S.W.2d at 678).

Camargo entered into an agreement to lease 6, 597 square feet of office space from CRT for a term beginning October 1, 2010, and ending May 31, 2016.[2] The lease included the following rent schedule:

Months

Monthly Basic Rent

Annual Basic Rent

10/01/10–05/31/11

$ 5, 085.19

N/A

06/01/11–05/31/12

$ 9, 345.75

$112, 149.00

06/01/12–05/31/13

$ 9, 620.63

$115, 447.50

06/01/13–05/31/14

$ 9, 895.50

$118, 746.00

06/01/14–05/31/15

$10, 170.38

$122, 044.50

06/01/15–05/31/16

$10, 445.25

$125, 343.00

In addition to these fees, Camargo agreed to pay its proportionate share of electrical costs, (estimated at $893.18 per month for 2010), operating costs, and taxes.

CRT alleged that Camargo failed to pay its June 2012 rent and then abandoned the property without notice. The lease provided that failure to pay rent within five days after delivery of written notice from CRT constituted default. Upon default, Section 18(b) of the lease gave CRT the right to:

Terminate Tenant's right to possess the Premises without terminating this Lease by giving written notice thereof to Tenant, in which event Tenant shall pay to Landlord (1) all Rent and other amounts accrued hereunder to the date of termination of possession, (2) all amounts due from time to time under Section 19. (a), and (3) all Rent and other net sums required hereunder to be paid by Tenant during the remainder of the Term, diminished by any net sums thereafter received by Landlord through reletting the Premises . . ...

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