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Opinion of the Court.

a species of destruction by vis major. Pothier, Contrat de Louage, no. 65; 3 Duvergier, Droit Civil, no. 332.

The following article, not to be found in so many words in the Code Napoleon, or in the Louisiana Code of 1808, first appears in the Code of 1825:

"Art. 2699 (2669). If, without any fault of the lessor, the thing cease to be fit for the purpose for which it was leased, or if the use be much impeded, as if a neighbor, by raising his walls, shall intercept the light of a house leased, the lessee may, according to circumstances, obtain the annulment of the lease, but has no claim for indemnity."1

But this article, too, only affirms a reasonable, if not necessary, construction of article 2697 (2667); for the lessor being held to warrant that the lessee shall enjoy the property for the use for which it was leased, any cause which makes his enjoyment impossible has the same effect as if it destroyed the property. This is clearly shown by Ulpian and by Pothier, in the various passages above referred to. So Troplong says, that if the vis major lets the thing exist in whole and in all its parts, but prevents the lessee from taking or keeping the enjoyment, this case does not come exactly within the letter of article 1722 of the Code Napoleon; but the spirit should give life to the text, mais l'esprit doit venir vivifier le texte ; and it is certain that this case of vis major would give an opening for an annulment of the lease or an abatement of the rent. Troplong, Droit Civil, no. 225. See also 6 Marcadé, 450; Bowditch v. Heation, 22 La. Ann. 356. From the earliest times, also, the building up by a neighbor so as to darken the lights of a house leased was held to entitle the tenant to relief. Dig. 19, 2, 25, 2; Domat, pt. 1, lib. 1, tit. 4, sect. 3, no. 6; Pothier, Contrat de Louage, no. 325.

Under articles 2697 (2667) and 2699 (2669) of the Louisiana Code, as under article 1722 of the Code Napoleon, it is not, of

1 And in French, in the Code of 1825: "Si la chose cesse, sans le fait du bailleur, d'être propre à l'usage pour lequel elle était louée, ou si l'usage en est devenu très incommode, comme si un voisin, en élevant ses murs, intercepte les jours de la maison louée, le preneur peut, suivant le cas, obtenir la résiliation du bail; mais il ne lui est dû aucune indemnité."

Opinion of the Court.

course, every destruction of part of the thing leased, or injury to its fitness for the use for which it was leased, by an unfore seen event or cas fortuit, that entitles the lessee to have the lease annulled; and it is for the court to decide whether the destruction or the injury is grave enough. But if by such an event an important part of the property is destroyed, or the property is made unfit for its destined use, the lessee has the right to elect the annulment of the lease, and is not obliged to be satisfied with an abatement of the rent. Troplong, nos. 202, 213; 30 Dalloz, Louage, nos. 200-202; 6 Marcadé, 448; 25 Laurent, Droit Civil, arts. 402-404.

The learned counsel for the defendant much relied on some dicta of Louisiana judges to the effect that the law of the State does not favor the abrogation of a lease when the loss or inconvenience is not caused by the fault of the lessor. Dussnau v. Generis, 6 La. Ann. 279; Denman v. Lopez, 12 La. Ann. 823; Foucher v. Choppin, 17 La. Ann. 321; Penn v. Kearny, 21 La. Ann. 21, 23. But such dicta cannot be understood as laying down a general rule, in opposition to the express words of articles 2697 (2667) and 2699 (2669) of the Civil Code. The circumstances of each of the cases in which they were uttered were quite different from those before us; in two of them the injury or inconvenience was comparatively unimportant; and in the other two the tenant had not surrendered the lease, but remained in possession. In a later case than any of these, which was one of partial destruction by fire of a building in a city, the court held that under article 2697 (2667) the lessee, although he might, if he pleased, have the rent abated, had a perfect right to elect to have the whole lease annulled. Higgins v. Wilner, 26 La. Ann. 544.

All the articles, already cited, except perhaps those regarding tenant's repairs, clearly apply to farms and plantations as well as to houses; for one of the first articles of the Louisiana Code on the subject of leases declares, "The letting out of things is of two kinds, to wit: 1. The letting out houses and movables. 2. The letting out predial or country estates." Art. 2676 (2646); Code of 1808, lib. 3, tit. 8, art. 4. And the corresponding articles in the Code Napoleon, excepting the

Opinion of the Court.

"Of

introductory definitions, are placed under the heading the rules common to leases of houses and of rural property; those as to tenant's repairs being placed under the heading "Of the rules peculiar to leases for hire," that is to say, of houses and furniture.

The Louisiana Code of 1808, lib. 3, tit. 8, art. 54, as well as each of the subsequent codes, contains the following article relating to rural or predial estates only:

“Art. 2743 (2714). The tenant of a predial estate cannot claim an abatement of the rent, under the plea that, during the lease, either the whole or a part of his crop has been destroyed by accidents, unless those accidents be of such an extraordinary nature that they could not have been foreseen by either of the parties at the time the contract was made, such as the ravages of war extending over a country then at peace, and where no person entertained any apprehension of being exposed to invasion, or the like.

"But even in these cases, the loss suffered must have been equal to the value of one half of the crop at least, to entitle the tenant to an abatement of the rent.

"The tenant has no right to an abatement, if it is stipulated in the contract that the tenant shall run all the chances of all foreseen and unforeseen accidents." 1

To this the following article was added in the Code of 1825: "Art. 2744 (2715). The tenant cannot obtain an abatement, when the loss of the fruit takes place after its separation from the earth, unless the lease give to the proprietor a portion of

1 And in French, in the Codes of 1808 and 1825:

"Le fermier d'un bien rural ou de campagne ne peut obtenir aucune remise sur le prix du bail sous prétexte que, pendant la durée de son bail, la totalité, ou partie de sa récolte, lui aurait été enlevée par des cas fortuits, si ce n'est que ces cas fortuits fussent d'une nature extraordinaire, et dont l'événement n'a pu raisonnablement être prévu, ou supposé par les parties, lors du contrat, tels que les ravages de la guerre au milieu d'un pays qui était en paix, et où l'on devait se croire naturellement à l'abri de toute invasion, et autres cas semblables.

"Encore, pour obtenir cette remise, faut-il que la perte éprouvée soit au moins de la moitié de la récolte, et que le preneur ne soit pas chargé par le bail de tous les cas prévus ou imprévus."

VOL. CXX-46

Opinion of the Court.

the crop in kind; in which case the proprietor ought to bear his share of the loss, provided the tenant has committed no unreasonable delay in delivering his portion of the crop.”

These articles take the place of several articles contained in the Code Napoleon, under the heading “Of the rules peculiar to leases of rural property," of which the following is a translation: 2

1

"1769. If the lease is made for several years, and if, during the continuance of the lease, the whole or at least the half of a crop is destroyed by accidents, the tenant may demand an abatement of the rent, unless he is indemnified by the preceding harvests. If he is not indemnified, the estimate of the abatement can only take place at the end of the lease, at which time an account is taken of all the years of enjoyment; and nevertheless the judge may provisionally relieve the tenant from paying a part of the rent, by reason of the loss suffered.

"1770. If the lease is only for one year, and the loss is of the whole of the fruits, or at least of the half, the tenant shall

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1 And in French: "Le fermier ne peut obtenir de remise, lorsque la perte des fruits arrive après qu'ils sont séparés de la terre, à moins que le bail ne donne au propriétaire une quotité de la récolte en nature; auquel cas le propriétaire doit supporter sa part de la perte, pourvu que le preneur ne fût pas en demeure de lui délivrer sa portion de récolte."

2 The original text is as follows:

"1769. Si le bail est fait pour plusieurs années, et que, pendant la durée du bail, la totalité ou la moitié d'une récolte au moins soit enlevée par des cas fortuits, fermier peut demander une remise du prix de sa location, à moins qu'il ne soit indemuisé par les récoltes précédentes. S'il n'est pas indemnisé, l'estimation de la remise ne peut avoir lieu qu'à la fin du bail, auquel temps il se fait une compensation de toutes les années de jouissance; et cependant le juge peut provisoirement dispenser le preneur de payer une partie du prix, en raison de la perte soufferte.

"1770. Si le bail n'est que d'une année, et que la perte soit de la totalité des fruits, ou au moins de la moitié, le preneur sera déchargé d'une partie proportionnelle du prix de la location. Il ne pourra prétendre aucune remise, si la perte est moindre de moitié.

"1771. Le fermier ne peut obtenir de remise, lorsque la perte des fruits arrive après qu'ils sont séparés de la terre, à moins que le bail ne donne au propriétaire une quotité de la récolte en nature; auquel cas le propriétaire doit supporter sa part de la perte, pourvu que le preneur ne fût pas en demeure de lui délivrer sa portion de récolte. Le fermier ne peut égale

Opinion of the Court.

be discharged from a proportional part of the rent. He cannot claim any abatement, if the loss is less than half.

"1771. The tenant cannot obtain an abatement, when the loss of the fruits takes place after they are severed from the land, unless the lease gives to the landlord a portion of the crop in kind; in which case the landlord ought to bear his part of the loss, provided the tenant has not been guilty of unreasonable delay in delivering to him his portion of crop. Likewise, the tenant cannot demand an abatement, when the cause of the damage was in existence and known at the time. when the lease was made.

"1772. The tenant may be charged with accidents by an express stipulation.

"1773. That stipulation is understood of ordinary accidents only, such as hail, lightning, frost or blight. It is not understood of extraordinary accidents, such as the ravages of war, or an inundation, to which the country is not ordinarily subject, unless the lessee has been charged with all accidents, foreseen or not foreseen.”

The last clause of article 2743 (2714) of the Louisiana Code was evidently taken from articles 1772 and 1773 of the Code Napoleon. The rest of the article was apparently derived from the view expressed by Pothier in his Contrat de Louage, no. 163, above quoted, which, as has been pointed out by the commentators on the Code Napoleon, was rejected by the framers of that code. Troplong, no. 710; 4 Duvergier, no. 183; 9 Duranton, 261. And article 2744 (2715) is copied word for word from so much of article 1771 of the Code Napoleon. The decision of the present case mainly depends upon the true construction of articles 2697 (2667) and 2699 (2669) taken

ment demander une remise, lorsque la cause du dommage était existante et connue à l'époque où le bail a été passé.

"1772. Le preneur peut être chargé des cas fortuits par une stipulation expresse.

"1773. Cette stipulation ne s'entend que des cas fortuits ordinaires, tels que grêle, feu du ciel, gelée ou coulure. Elle ne s'entend pas des cas fortuits extraordinaires, tels que les ravages de la guerre, ou une inondation, auxquels le pays n'est pas ordinairement sujet, à moins que le preneur n'ait été chargé de tous les cas fortuits, prévus ou imprévus."

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