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Renaissance Dev. Corp. v. Buca V, LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 12, 2015

RENAISSANCE DEVELOPMENT CORP., Plaintiff,
v.
BUCA V, LLC, BUCA, INC., AND BUCA RESTAURANTS, INC., Defendants

         Decided November 10, 2015

          For Renaissance Development Corp., Plaintiff: Lauren J. Coppola, LEAD ATTORNEY, Partridge Snow & Hahn, Boston, MA; Martin P. Desmery, LEAD ATTORNEY, Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP, Boston, MA.

         For Buca V, LLC, Buca, Inc., Buca Restaurants, Inc., Defendants: Daniel R. Sonneborn, LEAD ATTORNEY, Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios LLP, Boston, MA; William C. Saturley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios PLLP, Concord, NH.

         ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 30)

         Leo T. Sorokin, United States District Judge.

         On February 20, 2015, Plaintiff Renaissance Development Corporation (" Renaissance" ) filed a complaint in this Court against Buca V, LLC d/b/a Buca Di Beppo, Buca, Inc., and Buca Restaurants, Inc. (" the Buca Defendants" ). Doc. No. 1. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the Buca Defendants have breached their commercial lease agreement with Renaissance by failing to pay rent. Before the Court is Renaissance's Motion for Summary Judgment on Counts One and Two of its complaint. Doc. No. 30. The dispute concerns the allocation of the risk between the landlord and the tenant of an interruption in the tenant's business arising from a public road construction project. Because the Lease allocates that risk, at least in the present circumstances, to the tenant, Renaissance's Motion for Summary Judgment is ALLOWED on all counts.

         I. UNDISPUTED FACTS

         The Buca Defendants consist of Buca, V, LLC (" Buca V" ), Buca, Inc. (" Buca" ), and Buca Restaurants, Inc. (" BRI" ). The premises at issue is located at 7 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, on the westbound side of Route 9. Buca V operates a Buca Di Beppo restaurant (" the Restaurant" ) on the premises. Doc. No. 42 ¶ 35. The premises is adjacent to a bridge that runs across Lake Quinsigamond called the Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge (" the Bridge" ). Id. ¶ 36. Renaissance and Buca V are parties to a Commercial Property Lease (" the Lease" ) governing the Shrewsbury premises, and Buca and BRI are guarantors of the Lease.[1]

         In or around 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation undertook a construction project to replace the Bridge. Doc. No. 42 ¶ 37. The Commonwealth's construction project began harming the Restaurant's profitability in the summer of 2014, and in January 2015, the Restaurant closed its doors to customers. Id. ¶ ¶ 40-43, 76-77. The Restaurant's profitability plummeted during the construction mostly due to its interference with accessibility to the Restaurant's entrance. Id. ¶ ¶ 48-53. The construction made the westbound entrance " hard to spot" from the highway " due to the numerous construction vehicles located in and around the entrance and obscured signs." Id. ¶ 49. Further, the construction " eliminated the ability to make a U-turn," forcing customers who missed the entrance to exit the highway and take a more indirect route back to the restaurant. Id. ¶ 50. Turning into the entrance from the eastbound side of the highway was also difficult for customers because of the entrance's limited visibility. Id. ¶ 52. At one point, for " numerous days," the westbound entrance was completely inaccessible due to the attempted replacement of the water main lines. Id. ¶ 60. In addition to impaired access due to the construction, guests could feel pounding and vibrations while in the Restaurant, and complained of dust and debris from the construction. Id. ¶ ¶ 57-59, 72. Further, the water to the restaurant was shut off at various times without warning, and sometimes came out brown when working. Id. ¶ ¶ 67-71. Neighboring businesses, including other restaurants, experienced similar difficulties with the construction and lost business as a result. Doc. No 38, Exhibit 10.

         In or around November of 2014, Buca V ceased paying rent and real estate taxes. Doc. No. 42 ¶ 18. Renaissance sent a demand letter to the Buca Defendants on January 16, 2015, to which the Buca Defendants did not respond. Id. ¶ 19; Doc. No. 32, Exhibit 8. Soon thereafter, Renaissance learned that Buca V had vacated the premises, but still remained in possession of the premises. Doc. No. 42 ¶ ¶ 20, 24.

         On February 20, 2015, Renaissance filed a complaint for breach of lease against Buca V and breach of guaranty against Buca and BRI. Doc. No. 1. Renaissance contends that the Buca Defendants breached the Lease by ceasing to pay rent and abandoning the premises, and that as of the date of the complaint the Buca Defendants owed Renaissance $206,513.44. Id. at 1. Renaissance has moved for an entry of summary judgment in its favor on its breach of lease and breach of guaranty counts against the Buca Defendants. Doc. No. 30.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when " the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Once a party " has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who 'may not rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Barbour v. Dynamics Research Corp., 63 F.3d 32, 37 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). The Court is " obliged to []view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and to draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor." LeBlanc v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 6 F.3d 836, 841 (1st Cir. 1993). Even so, the Court is to ignore " conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation." Prescott v. Higgins, 538 F.3d 32, 39 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Medina--Muñoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1990)). A court may enter summary judgment " against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The parties do not dispute that the Buca Defendants failed to pay rent, thus breaching the Lease. Further, the Buca Defendants do not contend that Renaissance failed to fulfill any of its obligations under the Lease. Nor do the parties dispute that the Restaurant's failure was caused by the Bridge construction. Doc. No. 36 ¶ 25. Indeed, the Buca Defendants make no claim that Renaissance did anything wrong. Doc. No. 35 at 11. Rather, the Buca Defendants contend that an issue of material fact exists as to whether they are excused from fulfilling their obligation to pay rent under the provisions of the Lease. Id. at 9-10. Specifically, they contend that the Bridge construction that disrupted their business may have ...


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