Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. Prevails In Representing Landlords In a Summary Judgment Class Action Case Against a Megafirm Representing 19 Tenants in 6 Buildings
Nineteen tenants from six buildings formed a tenant association in the name of my client’s company to go on the attack against the client’s subdivisions, personnel, and parent company. Their initial assault included hundreds of paragraphs in a court filed complaint, issued in tandem with the press release. It became increasingly clear during the course of the lawsuit that the press attention was more important to plaintiffs’ counsel than the actual issues in the buildings or even than own clients. Indeed, early in the lawsuit, several of their clients opted out of the suit altogether. These people apparently understood how they were being used and wanted no part of it.
But for the legal services organizations and the Megafirm involved, the press coverage was vital. None of plaintiffs’ counsel took cash compensation. The hype they expected to win was enough.
Plaintiffs’ counsel promised their clients a punishing case and years of depositions and injunctive relief and worked tirelessly to try to harm my client, even going so far as to alert local politicians and the client’s banks. The politicians lost interest soon enough, but the banks needed to be convinced that there was no there, there. Eventually, that vindication came.
Plaintiffs’ counsel turned a blind eye to a tenant-plaintiff selling drugs out of her apartment. So too, they ignored another tenant who had been sold her apartment and was looking to exploit the case only for further profit. Other tenants had not lived in their apartments for years.
Just how the plaintiff’s counsel rounded up their supposed clients remains something of a mystery. Another tenant proclaimed that he liked the landlord and “never had a problem with the landlord.” Others supposedly claimed a need for repairs, but there were no violations posted. Their papers claimed harassment, but they found nothing harassing to testify about at their depositions—other than the landlord starting (and often prevailing) on cases for non-primary residence, illegal sublet, illegal drug use, lack of access for repairs, and running an hotel out of the apartment.
Through the years of litigation, one by one nearly all of the plaintiffs dropped out of the case, some even refusing to communicate with their own counsel. Whatever profits they thought they would get from this case, were clearly evaporating and making them participate in profitless proceedings, just wasting their time.
While we do not know what kind of groundwork plaintiffs’ counsel did before assembling a group of plaintiffs, it clearly did not entail their researching the law of harassment. They were clearly surprised that the things they based their claims on were not even illegal at the time they supposedly happened.
All of the harassment claims alleged dealt with an employee of the landlord trying to aggressively buyout the tenants or because repairs were not timely made. However, the laws finding such conduct actual harassment and applying financial penalties did not become law until many years until the last claim of harassment or attempted buyout occurred.
So even if all of the tenants has stayed in the case and everything they claimed was true, it was impossible for them to win because no law had been enacted or existed at the time of filing their lawsuit. I kept reminding them of this and implored them to stop these proceedings and wasting my client’s legal fees and my time and my law firm’s time when there was no way they could win their case.
But they kept pressing on as if wearing a mask. We had to wait until the last landlord’s employee testified at a deposition so that we could move for summary judgment. When we filed our papers and the law and when I explained the law to the judge, my adversary from this large law firm who spent years talking down to me, asked for more time to put in extra papers—a so-called surreply. This, he claimed he needed because, he claimed, it was our fault for not informing him of what laws were on the books. His failure was all the worse because we had mentioned the timing of these laws at every deposition. A little more listening on his part and a lot less arrogance would have saved everybody considerable effort. The legal services attorney just looked down at the ground as I argued the cause, explaining the law.
Two months later we received the decision, winning the case on all counts with the judge unconditionally adopting the reasoning in my oral argument and in our brief.
Unfortunately, a lot of damage had been done. It had been more difficult for our client to obtain loans and our client had been put in a special program where it had to get a punitive certificate to apply for a permit to rehabilitate a property. My client will tell you that the SRO-type designation had nothing to do with this action, but we knew better and I made sure I sent a copy of the decision to the government representative who had been most vocal about our clients.
My clients have always cared about their tenants and run fantastic buildings. They worked hard to keep an old building that needed constant repair in shape and in working order. They responded to all repair requests within 24 hours. But a few dishonest and profiteering tenants seeking to make money on the building and others in the drug business decided to also join a large scale action gone bad.
We are also aware it took a lot of money and courage for this landlord to say we have had enough and allow Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. loose to prosecute the case and seek justice when many other landlords would have paid out just to make the case go away.
Sometimes, the good guys own the building, but tenants’ counsel were too arrogant to see that as a possibility. The ancient Greeks wrote all their tragedies about arrogance getting in the way of sound judgment. Tenants’ counsel would do well to read up a bit.
Adam Leitman Bailey ran the case. Dov Treiman wrote the supporting paperwork.