In eviction case, trial court wrongly made landlord produce leases with other tenants

IIn eviction case, trial court wrongly made landlord produce leases with other tenantsn a recent decision, the Second District Court of Appeal indirectly addressed an issue that comes up from time to time in landlord-tenant litigation: whether the landlord must produce in discovery documents relating to other tenants.

The facts are straightforward. The commercial landlord sued for eviction. The tenant raised various defenses and asserted a counterclaim. One of the tenant’s arguments was that the landlord was obligated to keep the shopping center fully leased. In discovery, the tenant asked for the monthly rent rolls for the shopping center. The landlord objected, arguing in part that the rent rolls contained trade secrets. The tenant also asked for records “showing when tenants vacated leased premises during” the relevant time span. The trial court sided with the tenant on the discovery dispute, requiring the landlord to produce its other leases, though with some redactions to protect the tenants’ privacy.

The appellate court sided with the landlord. This was largely because the trial court did not follow the required procedure (reviewing the requested documents before making a ruling). But the appellate court expressed concern that the redactions to the leases that the trial court ordered protected the tenants’ privacy, but not the landlord’s potential trade secrets.

The facts of every case are of course different, so the ruling in this case was not intended to be a bright line rule about whether a landlord must produce leases with other tenants in litigation with one tenant. One takeaway, though, is that at least in certain landlord-tenant disputes, courts may be open to requiring the landlord to produce leases with other tenants, but also may be open to redactions to those leases.

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