Airplane hangar case sent back to trial judge

By Paul Fletcher
BridgeTower Media Newswires
 
DETROIT — An Oakland County trial judge who found that a man who failed to pay rent to store his airplane at a hangar had committed a breach of contract and owed $17,600 will have a chance to rethink that ruling.

A panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals found the parties had a written contract that devolved into an oral agreement. But the relationship was more complicated than that.

The plane owner sometimes missed his payments then cured the problem by paying and he sometimes paid two months at a time. The parties’ pattern and the details of the relationship were needed; the case therefore did not lend itself to summary disposition, the court found.

The unpublished per curiam decision is Chaudhary v. JDS Pump N Go LLC. Sitting on the panel were Judges Kirsten Frank Kelly, Stephen L. Borrello and Mark T. Boonstra.

The plaintiff and the owners of a hangar at the Troy airport struck a deal in 2004; he rented space to store his airplane for $200 a month.

The parties went through several iterations of the written agreement, then in 2009 converted to an oral agreement for storage of the plane.

The plaintiff was not consistent in his payments. In 2011, he was so far in arrears that the hangar owners moved the plane outside. The parties resolved their differences and the plane went back into the hangar.

In 2017, the plaintiff got a call from someone interested in buying the plane; the caller said the plane had been sitting outside the hangar for several years and had fallen into disrepair.

The plaintiff, who admitted he had not been regularly to the hangar since 2011, found his plane was seriously damaged. He filed a breach of contract suit against the owners, who countersued him.

At trial, the judge granted summary disposition for the hangar owners on the plaintiff’s claim and their own, awarding them $17,600 in damages.

The appeals court said that finding was in error and that a remand was warranted. Too many facts in dispute needed to be resolved.

There were documents introduced that provided a history of the parties’ back-and-forth relationship and that at some point, the hangar manager told the plaintiff he needed to remove his plane.

And there were financial invoices that showed that during part of the time at issue, the plaintiff had been paying $400, or two months at a time.

Acceptance of payments can waive any breach, under settled law, the court said, and a party who waives breach can still be held for breach himself.

The bottom line from the court: “[A]t a minimum, our review of the record reveals genuine questions of material fact” about the parties’ contractual relationship and “the lasting effect” of plaintiff’s breaches.

That portion of the trial judge’s opinion was reversed; the case was remanded for additional proceedings.

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