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Trump's Breach of Contract Issues

Donald Trump's comments about immigrants may have negative legal consequences, but not if he can help it. Trump has sued the organization of celebrity chef Jose Andrés, seeking $10 million in damages for breach of contract after Andrés backed out of a deal to open the flagship restaurant in Trump's redevelopment of the historic Old Post Office Pavilion. Andrés, like other business owners, severed his connection with Trump upon hearing Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants. Andrés explained that working with Trump is "impossible" because Trump's comments and behavior made opening the Spanish restaurant "no longer viable." As Andrés himself is an immigrant from Spain who became an American citizen in 2013, and over half his team and many of his guests are Hispanic, Andrés argued that Trump burdened the business with his "inflammatory statement" and that he could no longer continue working with Trump.

Trump's attorneys claim that Andrés was aware of Trump's views and that in January Andrés praised Trump, saying he was "proud" to work with him. Trump's attorneys will likely try to raise these factual issues to show that Andrés' breach was not justified.

Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup stated in response to the suit that Mr. Trump's comments "made ThinkFoodGroup's participation in [the] project

impossible and constituted a breach which the landlord, Trump Old Post Office LLC, refused to remedy." ThinkFoodGroup further stated that although they had attempted to "negotiate an amicable resolution," they were ultimately forced to terminate the lease.

Without the language of the contract, it is difficult to know what the terms of the agreement were, and whether there was any type of morality clause that excused either party from carrying out the agreed-upon performance if one party acted inappropriately. A judge hearing this case would analyze the terms present in the contract, and consider similar circumstances in other published cases, resting an opinion on whether Trump's behavior was a breach of the written terms or so egregious that they could not enforce the contract as written.

However, it may be difficult for Andrés to prove that he had legitimate reason for pulling out of the lease. Andrés might be estopped from arguing that Trump's views were a shock to him, especially if he was aware of these views and did nothing about them. Conversely, even if Andrés was aware, he may be able to argue "frustration of purpose" which is a legal theory where one party to a contract argues that the other party acted in a way that frustrated its ability to perform under the contract. Andrés may be able to claim that even if he was aware of Trump's views, that Trump had not been so outspoken about them until his presidential candidacy and that by making his views so widely known, it made it difficult for Andrés to operate a successful Spanish-themed restaurant in a Trump property.

Trump is seeking $10 million in damages, plus attorney's fees based on the costs to find a new restaurant tenant, lost profits and rent, costs associated with changing the style and decor associated with Andrés' restaurant, and more. One of Trump's spokesmen told Politico that Andrés must pay rent for the next ten years. "You don't get to sign an agreement that you're going to pay rent for the next ten years and then walk away."

To discuss your breach of contract issue, contact the experienced Orange County business lawyers at Myers Berstein today.

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