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Association of American Railroads v. Connerton

January 28, 1999

ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS, APPELLANT,
v.
ROBERT J. CONNERTON, ET AL., APPELLEES.



Before Schwelb and Farrell, Associate Judges, and King, Senior Judge. *fn*

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. Zinora Mitchell-Rankin, Trial Judge)

Argued September 1, 199

These appeals arise from a dispute between the Association of American Railroads (AAR), as sublessor, and Connerton, Ray, & Simon, a law firm (Connerton), as subtenant, over the construction of their Sublease. Following a bench trial, the trial Judge ruled in Connerton's favor with respect to AAR's contention that Connerton was liable to AAR for a share of certain disputed operating expenses and real estate taxes. The Judge also ordered AAR to pay Connerton $73,790 in counsel fees. On appeal, AAR contends that these rulings were erroneous as a matter of law. We affirm.

I.

THE PASS-THROUGHS

A. Background.

The eight-story commercial building located at 1920 L Street N.W. in Washington, D.C. consists of office space on floors two through eight, retail space on the first floor, and a garage. On September 11, 1978, 20th & L Associates Limited Partnership, as landlord, leased all of the office space and most of the retail space to AAR pursuant to the terms of the "Master Lease." On January 21, 1987, AAR subleased approximately 12,000 square feet of office space on the fourth floor of the building to Connerton's predecessor-in-interest.

In 1994, after Connerton refused to pay some of the charges claimed by AAR to be due, AAR instituted an action for possession against Connerton in the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the Superior Court's Civil Division. AAR claimed that Connerton had failed to pay its full share of the rent due pursuant to the Sublease. Connerton counterclaimed for a refund of rent previously paid, asserting that AAR had attempted to charge Connerton amounts that were not authorized by the Sublease. On July 24, 1995, in a 27-page order (Order No. 1), the trial Judge ruled in favor of AAR on some of the issues disputed by the parties and in Connerton's favor as to other issues. AAR has appealed from the trial Judge's Disposition of issues relating to the amount Connerton was required to pay as its share of the building's operating costs and real estate taxes. AAR also claims that the trial Judge should have dismissed Connerton's counterclaim because, according to AAR, Connerton made the payments voluntarily and with full knowledge of the facts.

B. The Sublease.

Under the terms of the Sublease, Connerton is required to pay a fixed monthly base rent and

its proportionate share of all increases in operating costs (to the extent charged by the Lessor to the Sublessor under the terms of the Master Lease) above an index of $7.25 per resalable square foot, per year. This amount ($7.25 per rentable square foot, per year) will be considered the "Base Operating Costs." Sublessee's proportionate share of operating expenses will be based on the ratio of Sublessee's total square footage to the total square footage of the rentable office space in the building in accordance with Exhibit 1. Sublessee's proportionate share of real estate taxes to ...


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