Monthly Archives: December 2020

“Red Shoe” Stubs a (Legal) Toe on East 75th Street: No Pandemic Caused Frustration/Impossibility of Performance

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

In a recent case, an iconic Upper East Side luxury retailer sought to escape the obligation to pay $1.68m in  rent because the pandemic destroyed the efficacy of the high-end/tourist/walk-in-and-buy business model for its branded shoes.

35 E.  E. 75th St. Corp. claimed that Christian Louboutin LLC (the tenant in a building owned by E. 75th) had not paid rent since March 3, 2020. And argued that the amount due was comprised of the monthly payments of rent and real estate tax escalation charges for 2020/21.

Continue reading

“Reasonable Expectations” Meets “Res Ipsa Loquitur” at the Boqueria Soho: Bone of Legal Contention–Tapas Dish with Steak & Piquillo Pepper Confit

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

On September 23, 2016, Yassaman Kazemi was dining at Boqueria Soho, LLC. She ordered a tapas dish with sirloin steak and piquillo pepper confit. Yassaman claimed that when she bit into the piquillo pepper, she bit into a concealed piece of a sharp bone which caused severe injuries. She claimed that she was entitled to summary judgment under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur and implied warranty. And asserted that the failure to remove the sharp bone from the pepper constituted negligence as a matter of law.

Boqueria argued that there were numerous issues of fact that preclude summary judgment. Kazemi could not show whether the bone came from the steak; whether she bit into it while eating the steak; whether her companion cut the bone out of the steak and left it in a small plate of tapas before biting into the bone; whether Kazemi ordered a boneless steak entrée; and whether she should have reasonably anticipated finding a small bone shard in her steak.

Continue reading

Court Answers an Existential Question: How Clean is “Broom Clean”?

This was originally published on the SGR Blog.

Contracts for the sale of residential real property often require the seller to deliver the premises “broom clean”. And leases for residential apartments almost always require a tenant to surrender the unit “in broom clean condition” at the end of the lease term.  A recent dispute, concerning the condition of a home at the time of delivery, is equally applicable to the condition of an apartment at the end of a lease.

Phillip and Janet Witter sold their house to Daniel and Erin Nitschke but remained on the premises pursuant to a post-closing occupancy agreement. The Witters claimed that they surrendered the property in broom-clean condition, and are entitled to release of a $2,000 escrow deposit. The Nitschkes sought $400 of the escrow deposit to reimburse them for the cost of having the premises professionally cleaned.  A hearing to consider the claim and counterclaim was held to determine  the competing “small claims” in the Penfield Town Justice Court. Both sides appeared without counsel.

Continue reading

New York Court of Appeals Update (December 2020)

This was originally posted on the SGR blog.

Court Nixes Grossly Disproportionate Liquidated Damages:

Landlord Not Entitled to $1M+ for Tenant Default of $175K

The Court of Appeals recently considered the enforceability of a liquidated damages provision in a commercial lease Surrender Agreement between  Columbia University, one of the City’s premier universities, and D’Agostino Supermarkets, a family-owned food market chain founded in 1932. As a general matter, parties are free to agree to a liquidated damages clause provided that the clause is neither unconscionable nor contrary to public policy.

But were the damages sought by Columbia grossly disproportionate to the amount due from D’Agostino upon full performance of the Surrender Agreement? Supreme Court and the Appellate Division struck the provision as an unenforceable penalty in contravention of public policy. D’Agostino appealed.

Continue reading

The Long Arm of the Business Judgment Rule at a Queens Condo

Copyright by, and republished with permission of, Habitat Magazine.

The Village Mall at Hillcrest Condominium, a pair of 15-story towers built in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, in the 1970s, bills itself as a place “Where Neighbors Become Friends.” But a recent court case shows that it’s also a place where friends can become enemies – thanks to the ironclad protections and long life of the Business Judgment Rule.

Way back in 1979, unit-owners Sunil and Sabita Banerjee claim they received permission from the condo’s managing agent to enclose the balcony on their apartment, creating a new room. Almost three decades later, a successor condo board revoked the permission, claiming access to the balcony was required to complete work on the facade mandated by the city’s Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), formerly known as Local Law 11. The Banerjees refused to remove their enclosure.

Continue reading

New York Court of Appeals (Dec. 2020)

This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.

“Murder (He) Wrote”

Did that Suffice for a Conviction?

An incarcerated felon asked an inmate in an adjacent cell (whose was days away from release and whose girlfriend faced eviction from her apartment) to kill his wife and mother-in-law and kidnap his children (after he left prison)– in return for which he would be given a house. Detailed written and verbal  information and instructions followed; but the neighboring cellmate informed the authorities and the crime never took place.  Was the felon guilty of attempted murder?

Feinman, J. (for the Court)

A person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime if the person’s conduct comes “dangerously close” to committing the intended crime. In a recent case, the Court of Appeals examined whether the evidence in a case was in/sufficient to support convictions for attempted murder in the first and second degrees. Did the defendant and his feigned confederate take any actual step toward accomplishing defendant’s plan to kill his wife and mother-in-law beyond mere conversations and planning?. irm.

Continue reading

Did COVID-19 Shutdown of Renovation Excuse Delay? Hearing Required to Determine Responsibility

Copyright by, and republished with permission of, Apartment Law Insider.

Covid-19 has seriously impacted almost every aspect of residential and commercial life in one manner or another—but, as a recent case illustrates,  especially in those situations where a  contemplated timeline for work was obstructed or delayed by governmental edicts that that imposed an involuntary “pause”. There, a landlord needed access to an apartment to complete  a project; the issue wound up before the court; the tenants agreed to vacate the unit for a stipulated period of time to accommodate the work;  the project stalled due to the pandemic; and the parties were back in court to consider the consequences.

On August 1, 2019, Timothy and Kiko Tabor stipulated on the court record with 148 Duane LLC that they would relocate from their apartment for 12 months, with 148 Duane covering the costs of their relocation, including paying up to $25,000 a month for comparable housing less the amount of their current rent. The parties also agreed that “[i]n the event that the relocation needs to be extended beyond the twelve-month period because [148 Duane] failed to complete the construction within that time period there will be a per-diem penalty of $500 per day without prejudice to the [Tabors] seeking additional remedies before this Court.” The parties clarified that the penalty applied if the building’s essential services, defined as those that make the apartment habitable, were still out.

Continue reading