Option to Purchase – Inadequacy of Damages For Unpaid Rent


Hiett v. Brady; Brady v. Hiett, [Ms. 1210065; 1210081, Aug. 26, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). The Court (Sellers, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, and Stewart, JJ., concur) affirms in part and reverses in part the Lee Circuit Court’s judgment entered on a jury verdict in a dispute involving a residential lease and option to purchase.

The Court affirms the jury’s verdict for the tenants enforcing the option to purchase. Noting that “[i]t is well-settled law that it is not this Court’s role to reweigh the evidence,” Ms. *11, the Court concludes “[b]ased on the evidence presented, the jury could have reasonably believed that the landlord’s October 4, 2016, email was a valid offer to extend the option to purchase until April 30, 2017, and that the tenants accepted that offer when Mr. Hiett gave the landlord’s assistant a check in the amount of $2,500, informing her that he was accepting the offer to extend the option to purchase until April 30, 2017.” Ms. *10.

The Court rejects the tenants’ argument that the verdict for the landlord for unpaid rent is inconsistent with the verdict enforcing the option to purchase. “Although a court may apportion damages against a landlord for failure to convey title by offsetting any loss of rental payments, the landlord cannot be stripped of his or her right to earn rental income as a self-help remedy when the tenant feels that the landlord has failed to perform under the lease or has otherwise allegedly breached the lease.” Ms. *14.

The Court reverses on the issue of inadequate damages raised in the landlord’s cross appeal. Although the jury found that the tenant’s breached the lease by failing to pay, the jury awarded slightly just over half of the unpaid rent “with no explanation of either how those damages were computed or the facts taken into consideration in calculating those damages. With nothing to support the amount of damages awarded by the jury, we hold that the damages are inadequate; accordingly, the trial court exceeded its discretion when it denied the landlord’s postjudgment motion for a new trial or an additur of the damages.” Ms. *17.

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