In your commercial lease dispute, your case may involve numerous pieces of evidence. Some of that proof may only emerge at the last minute. While a court may consider certain types of last-minute proof, the other side is not allowed to sandbag you. There are procedural rules available to protect you, but employing them to their maximum effect (and your maximum benefit) is something that often requires the deft touch of experience, so make sure you have a skilled South Florida commercial landlord-tenant lawyer on your side.
Here’s an example. The landlord was a Boca Raton-based corporation with a property in Miami-Dade County. The tenant, a major national pharmacy chain, sued the landlord for breach of contract. The landlord fought back by suing for eviction.
The court held a hearing. After all of the evidence had been presented and all of the arguments had been made, the judge announced that he was prepared to grant summary judgment to the tenant on the landlord’s eviction claim, and stated the reasons for granting that judgment. At that moment, the landlord informed the court that a “pivotal” page of the parties’ lease agreement was missing.
The court gave the landlord an opportunity to procure and submit this allegedly missing page, but the landlord never did. The only additional proof the landlord provided was a pair of affidavits: one from the landlord’s principal and one from a regional manager of the pharmacy chain.
The trial court did not consider those new affidavits and went forward with granting summary judgment to the tenant. The appeals court upheld that decision.
There are several important things to note from this ruling. One, there are deadlines on submitting evidence in a summary judgment hearing. The rules in Florida say that the party opposing summary judgment must identify all its evidence “at least 5 days prior to the day of the [summary judgment] hearing if service by mail is authorized, or delivered, electronically filed, or sent by e-mail no later than 5:00 p.m. 2 business days prior to the day of the hearing.” If your opponent misses those deadlines, you may be able to use that tardiness to block that last-minute evidence they seek to admit.
Two, there are scenarios where a party may have a permissible opportunity to submit extra evidence against summary judgment. That can happen if the summary judgment hearing is not yet completed and is continued to a future date.
There may be limits on what that opposing party can submit, however. In this landlord-tenant case, the judge continued the case for the express reason of allowing the landlord to submit the lease page it asserted was missing. When a court does that, the only new proof allowed is what the judge specifically indicated. The continuation is not an open door for the summary judgment opponent to submit any evidence it wants. If the opponent tries to submit proof other than what the judge instructed, then the deadline rule applies and permits the court to strike the new evidence as untimely.
Giving yourself the best chance for success means many things. It means knowing how to acquire all the proof you need to make your case and doing so in a timely fashion. It also means being prepared for whatever the other side throws at you, and defeating the other side’s efforts that are outside the rules. At every step of the process, rely on the diligent and skilled landlord-tenant attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman to be the powerful advocate you need to protect your interests and get you the positive result you deserve.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.