Slania Enterprises, Inc. v. Appledore Medical Group, Inc.Annotate this Case
Plaintiff Slania Enterprises, Inc. appealed a superior court decision to grant defendant Appledore Medical Group, Inc.’s motion to dismiss as time-barred a petition to recover damages stemming from an alleged breach of a commercial real estate lease. In October 2012, Slania, as the lessor, and Appledore, as the lessee, entered into a commercial real estate lease for an initial fixed term that ended on April 30, 2015. However, Appledore never took possession of the premises. Appledore paid rent due through January 2013, but then stopped doing so. In March 2013, Appledore communicated to Slania that it wished to terminate the lease. On April 12, 2013, Slania notified Appledore that it was in default on its rental payments. Appledore did not pay. On April 22, 2013, at the expiration of a 10-day cure period, Slania notified Appledore that, pursuant to Section 13.1(b) of the lease, it was electing, as its remedy upon default, to “keep the lease in effect and recover rent and other charges due [from Appledore] less the amount [Slania] may recover by re[-]letting the premises.” Slania re-let the premises from February 2015 through the end of the initial term of the lease, April 2015, for a lesser monthly amount. Approximately one year later, Slania filed a breach of contract action against Appledore for $82,527.87 in damages, which included rent, late fees, and utility costs due from May 2013 through April 2015. Appledore moved to dismiss, asserting that because the lease was breached no later than April 22, 2013, the claim was barred by a three-year statute of limitations. Slania objected, arguing that the lease was an installment contract, and, therefore, the statute of limitations did not bar a suit to recover payments due within three years of the date the complaint was filed. The trial court granted Appledore’s motion to dismiss, ruling that, because “a real estate lease of the type involved here is not an installment contract as that term is contemplated in the statute of limitations context,” the so-called “installment contract rule,” under which the statute of limitations runs only against each installment when it becomes due, did not apply. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded commercial real estate leases did not fall outside the bounds of the installment contract rule, and reversed the trial court’s contrary ruling. In rejecting Slania’s assertion that it could elect to keep the lease in place and sue for breaches that occurred within three years of the date it filed suit, the trial court did not mention anticipatory repudiation or material breach. The Supreme Court found this case raised issues of first impression regarding the interplay of the installment contract rule, a party’s election of contractual remedies, and anticipatory repudiation or anticipatory breach. It did not appear that these issues were fully explored by the trial court; accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s ruling with respect to Slania’s argument that, under the terms of the lease, it could keep the lease in effect and bring an action to recover for breaches that occurred no more than three years before the date it filed this suit. The case was remanded for such further proceedings, as the trial court deemed necessary.