Pannell v. Shannon, No. 2011–SC–000587–DG.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Citation425 S.W.3d 58
Docket NumberNo. 2011–SC–000587–DG.
PartiesRick PANNELL, Appellant v. Ann SHANNON; and Elegant Interiors, LLC, Appellees.
Decision Date20 March 2014

425 S.W.3d 58

Rick PANNELL, Appellant
v.
Ann SHANNON; and Elegant Interiors, LLC, Appellees.

No. 2011–SC–000587–DG.

Supreme Court of Kentucky.

March 20, 2014.


[425 S.W.3d 60]


Carroll Morris Redford, III, Susan Yuk Wo Chun, Michelle Lynn Hurley, Miller Griffin & Marks, P.S.C., Lexington, KY, for appellant.

Dan M. Rose, Christopher L. Thacker, Stoll Keenon Ogden, PLLC, Lexington, KY, for appellees.


Opinion of the Court by Justice NOBLE.

This case presents two primary questions. First, is the sole member of a limited liability company liable under a lease expressly stating that the company is the tenant even though the lease is the product of a release that does not mention the member's company capacity or the company in any direct way? Second, assuming the member has not directly obligated herself, can she be held personally liable if the lease was entered into while the company was, administratively dissolved and was subsequently reinstated? Based on the facts in this case, the member did not directly obligate herself because she clearly signed the lease in her representative capacity and the lease was expressly with the company. And because Kentucky's Limited Liability Company Act provides

[425 S.W.3d 61]

for retroactive effect of the reinstatement of an administratively dissolved company, the member continues to enjoy statutory immunity and cannot be personally liable solely by reason of being a member, manager, or agent of the company. Moreover, she cannot be personally liable under the theory that she exceeded her authority as an agent of the company during the dissolution.

I. Background

Ann Shannon organized Elegant Interiors, LLC in 2000 under the Kentucky Limited Liability Company Act, KRS Chapter 275, and was the company's sole member. In February 2004, Elegant Interiors, LLC entered into a lease for 3,645 square feet of commercial space with Rick Pannell, who owned the property. Shannon signed the lease on behalf of Elegant Interiors, LLC.

In 2005, Elegant Interiors, LLC failed to file its annual report as was then required by KRS 275.1901 and to pay the $15 filing fee. As a result, on November 1, 2005, the Kentucky Secretary of State administratively

[425 S.W.3d 62]

dissolved Elegant Interiors LLC, as was then allowed by KRS 275.295, by issuing a certificate of dissolution.

In March 2006, the parties negotiated new leasing terms, entering into a release of the old lease and a new lease for less than half the previous space. The release was prepared by Shannon, and was signed on March 2, 2006. It stated:

I agree to release 1991 SF of my current space and all responsibility of payment for the 1991 SF, located at 148 W. Tiverton Way, STE 140, beginning today, Mar. 2, 2006. The purpose of this release is to grant Rick Pannell the right to lease STE 140 (consisting of 1991 SF) to Dr. Mike Nemastil. It is agreed upon that the signing of this document by both parties assures that Ann Shannon will not be held responsible for the building of any walls, construction, cam costs, or any expenses pertaining to STE 140, beginning today, March 2, 06, and will only be responsible for payment of the remaining 1654 SF @ 18.00 SF [18.856 written by hand above 18.00 and initialed by both parties] and known as STE 150, located at the same address. Upon acceptance of this document, a new lease will be signed by Ann Shannon, for the changes in SF (1654 SF@ 18.00 SF [18.856 written by hand above 18.00 and initialed by both parties] ) and cam costs only for the STE 150. All other stipulations will remain the same as in the initial lease.2

The release was signed by both Ann Shannon and Rick Pannell. It does not mention Elegant Interiors, LLC.


[425 S.W.3d 63]

The new lease was also signed on March 2, 2006. Rather than using a new document, the parties used a copy of the original lease and simply wrote new terms over some of the old ones (such as the length of the lease, square footage, and amount of rent) and initialed the changes. The amended lease, like the original lease, stated that the tenant was Elegant Interiors, LLC. Shannon and Pannell signed the document at the end a second time, just above their original signatures. Shannon did not indicate her company title, despite a line for it, but her original signature line was preceded by the word “By.”

Despite the reduced cost, the rent payments for June and July of 2006 were not made. Pannell sued for breach of the lease agreement on July 21, 2006. He named both the LLC and Shannon individually, seeking to hold her personally liable for the rent through various theories, including that she had no authority to enter into the lease for the LLC and that the corporate veil of the LLC should be pierced because the company was simply the “alter ego” of Shannon.

Shortly after, Shannon sought to reinstate the administratively dissolved LLC, as was then allowed by KRS 278.295.3 On August 11, 2006, the Secretary of State issued a certificate of existence for the LLC that, by its own terms, “cancel[led] the certificate of dissolution issued on November 1, 2005.”

Shannon then sought summary judgment on the basis that she could not be held personally liable for the breach of the lease because the tenant on the lease was Elegant Interiors, LLC, which had been reinstated. She argued that because she was a member of the LLC, she was shielded from personal liability by KRS 275.150, the statute granting immunity to LLC members for acts of the LLC.

Pannell argued that despite the LLC being named the tenant in the lease, Shannon personally executed the lease, as evidenced by her signature on the release without any reference to the LLC, and thus she entered into the lease in her individual capacity. He also argued that Shannon could not have acted on behalf of the LLC because there was no such entity in existence at the time.

The circuit court disagreed. It held that the LLC, not Shannon individually, had entered into the lease, noting that the lease specifically described the tenant as “Elegant Interiors, a LLC corporation [sic].” As a result, according to the circuit court, the LLC was “the party assuming the obligations of Tenant.” As to the secondary argument, the court cited KRS 275.295(3), which stated in part that an LLC's “reinstatement shall relate back to and take effect as of the effective date of the administrative dissolution, and the limited liability company shall resume carrying on business as if the administrative dissolution had never occurred.” KRS 275.295(3)(c). The court held that since the lease specifically named the LLC and the reinstatement of Elegant Interiors, LLC occurred before entry of judgment, actions taken in the name of the company in entering into the 2006 lease were effective as if the dissolution had not occurred. As a result, Shannon was entitled to immunity from personal liability. The circuit court then awarded Pannell damages against Elegant Interiors, LLC under the lease.

The Court of Appeals affirmed unanimously, holding that the lease was with the

[425 S.W.3d 64]

LLC and that the administrative dissolution had no effect once the LLC was reinstated. In reaching this conclusion, the court relied in part on one of its own published decisions, Fairbanks Arctic Blind Co. v. Prather & Associates, Inc., 198 S.W.3d 143, 146 (Ky.App.2005), which stated that “reinstatement validates any action taken by a corporation between the time it was administratively dissolved and the date of its reinstatement.”

This Court granted discretionary review.

II. Analysis

This case presents two broad legal questions. First, did Shannon sign the release and lease in her individual capacity, thereby making her personally liable? Second, did the administrative dissolution of the LLC and Shannon's signing the lease during the period of dissolution, regardless of whether she signed in her company-member or individual capacity, make her personally liable?

A. Shannon did not sign the lease or release in her individual capacity.

Pannell's initial argument is that regardless of the status of Elegant Interiors, LLC, Shannon signed the release and the second lease in her individual capacity. To support this argument, he notes that the lease states on its cover page that it is “for Ann Shannon,” and that Shannon failed to indicate that her signature was in a representative capacity for the LLC. This, he claims, makes the document ambiguous, and thus subject to clarification through parol evidence. He also argues that the release, which was prepared by Shannon, mentions only Shannon and not the LLC, which would make her personally liable. This Court agrees with the Court of Appeals that Shannon did not sign the March 2006 lease in her personal capacity.

As to the claim that the lease states it is “for Ann Shannon,” it suffices to say that the lease defines the “Tenant” as Elegant Interiors, LLC, and throughout its terms refers to the “Tenant” as the party to the lease. The only reference to the lease agreement being “for Ann Shannon” appears on the cover page of the lease, which also states that the “tenant” is Elegant Interiors, LLC.

The cover page is but “introductory or prefatory” material. It had less substance than even the traditional recitals of a contract, which are “not an essential part of the operative portions of the contract.” Jones v. City of Paducah, 283 Ky. 628, 142 S.W.2d 365, 367 (1940). Like recitals, the statement on the cover page is not an essential part of the operative terms of the lease.

As for the claim that Shannon did not include her title or otherwise indicate her representative capacity along with her signature, it is worth noting that her signature line was preceded by the word “By,” which indicates that the signature is in a representative capacity. See7 William Meade Fletcher et al., Fletcher Cyclopedia of the Law of Private Corporations § 3032 (rev.vol.2012) (noting that a representative signature is ideally “preceded by the word ‘For’ or ‘By’ or some...

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32 practice notes
  • MARX v. Morris, No. 2017AP146
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 2, 2019
    ...provision as codified in Idaho's LLC statute and concluding that members of an LLC owe one another fiduciary duties); Pannell v. Shannon, 425 S.W.3d 58, 82 n.22 (Ky. 2014) (interpreting the same provision as codified in Kentucky's LLC statute as permitting a common law laches defense). Furt......
  • Osborn v. Griffin, Nos. 16–6221/6225/6226/6227
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 28, 2017
    ...Whether the principal's " ‘conduct is sufficient to indicate consent’ to ratification ‘is a question of fact [.]’ " Pannell v. Shannon , 425 S.W.3d 58, 84 (Ky. 2014) (citation omitted). "Conduct that can be otherwise explained may not effect ratification." Restatement (Third) of Agency § 4.......
  • Osborn v. Griffin (In re in Revocable Trust 2012), No. 16-6221
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 28, 2017
    ...Whether the principal's "'conduct is sufficient to indicate consent' to ratification 'is a question of fact[.]'" Pannell v. Shannon, 425 S.W.3d 58, 84 (Ky. 2014) (citation omitted). "Conduct that can be otherwise explained may not effect ratification." Restatement (Third) of Agency § 4.01(2......
  • Michael E. Wheatley for the Estate v. McCarty (In re CC Operations, LLC), Case No. 17-33389-thf
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • April 23, 2020
    ...(gives maximum effect to the principles of freedom of contract and enforceability of operating agreements); Pannell v. Shannon , 425 S.W.3d 58, 68 (Ky. 2014) (limited liability companies are "creatures of statute," not primarily by common the law, thus Kentucky's LLC Act displaces common la......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • MARX v. Morris, No. 2017AP146
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 2, 2019
    ...provision as codified in Idaho's LLC statute and concluding that members of an LLC owe one another fiduciary duties); Pannell v. Shannon, 425 S.W.3d 58, 82 n.22 (Ky. 2014) (interpreting the same provision as codified in Kentucky's LLC statute as permitting a common law laches defense). Furt......
  • Osborn v. Griffin, Nos. 16–6221/6225/6226/6227
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 28, 2017
    ...Whether the principal's " ‘conduct is sufficient to indicate consent’ to ratification ‘is a question of fact [.]’ " Pannell v. Shannon , 425 S.W.3d 58, 84 (Ky. 2014) (citation omitted). "Conduct that can be otherwise explained may not effect ratification." Restatement (Third) of Agency § 4.......
  • Osborn v. Griffin (In re in Revocable Trust 2012), No. 16-6221
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 28, 2017
    ...Whether the principal's "'conduct is sufficient to indicate consent' to ratification 'is a question of fact[.]'" Pannell v. Shannon, 425 S.W.3d 58, 84 (Ky. 2014) (citation omitted). "Conduct that can be otherwise explained may not effect ratification." Restatement (Third) of Agency § 4.01(2......
  • Michael E. Wheatley for the Estate v. McCarty (In re CC Operations, LLC), Case No. 17-33389-thf
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • April 23, 2020
    ...(gives maximum effect to the principles of freedom of contract and enforceability of operating agreements); Pannell v. Shannon , 425 S.W.3d 58, 68 (Ky. 2014) (limited liability companies are "creatures of statute," not primarily by common the law, thus Kentucky's LLC Act displaces common la......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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