The Real Deal: Trump Doral to pay tenant’s legal fees tied to lease dispute

Doral resort will have to pay more than $2.5M in legal bills.

Trump National Doral Miami is running up an expensive tab in a long-running legal war it’s losing against Florida Pritikin Center, a rehabilitation spa leasing space at the luxury resort.

On Wednesday, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed a 2017 final judgement ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose Rodriguez against Trump Endeavor 12, the entity that owns the Doral golf resort managed by Donald Trump Jr…

…By the time the bills are tallied up, Trump Endeavor will have to pay more than $2.5 million in attorney fees in its failed bid to evict the spa from a 40,000-square-foot-space at Trump Doral, said Pritikin’s lawyer, Philippe Lieberman, a partner with the Miami firm Kluger Kaplan Silverman Katzen and Levine.

“The exact amount will be determined by Judge Rodriguez in the next couple of months,” Lieberman said. “Our client is very happy. He is looking forward to putting this behind him and recovering his legal fees from Trump.”

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Trump Endeavor attorney Bruce Rogow did not respond to a request for comment.

Pritikin sued Trump Endeavor in June 2015, alleging breach of contract. According to court documents, Pritikin had a lease with the prior owner dating back to 2009 that was still in effect when Trump Endeavor purchased the golf resort in bankruptcy court three years later. The company affirmed the lease and Pritikin was forced to remain while the Trumps renovated the property, the lawsuit states.

“At that point, the property was in disrepair and bad condition,” Lieberman said. “Trump would not reduce the rent or allow Pritikin out of the lease. When the lease was up for renewal, it coincided with when construction was coming to a close. Trump wanted to bully us off the property.”

Pritikin’s lawsuit claims that Trump tried to increase a special room rate for Pritikin clients by 583 percent, would not replace worn-out refrigeration units in the spa, attempted to reject the tenant’s option to extend the lease until 2019 and tried to improperly terminate the agreement. “We resisted,” Lieberman said. “We pushed back.”

In February 2015, Rodriguez granted Pritikin declaratory relief, which forced Trump Endeavor to honor the lease, as well as decrease its clients’ room rates by 15 percent. The developer won a subsequent appeal to the Third District Court, which sent it back to Rodriguez to provide a better explanation as to why he ruled in Pritikin’s favor, Lieberman said.

“He did that in 38-page judgement filed in June 2017,” Lieberman said. “Trump appealed that judgement and the appellate court ruled in Pritikin’s favor this Wednesday.”

Read the full story in The Real Deal. 

Miami Herald: Trump loses appeal to Doral golf resort tenant whose rent he tried to raise 583 percent

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A Trump-owned company that operates the president’s Trump National Doral Miami golf resort has been ordered to pay the legal fees of a spa owner whose rent Trump attempted to raise fivefold during a lease dispute in 2013…

…Alan Kluger, a Pritikin attorney, said Trump had planned to “build a billionaire’s club” and the spa did not match his vision for the resort.

“He did everything he could to force him out,” Kluger said. “He and his team just tried to bully Pritikin. They took outrageous positions, they threatened him. It was really unconscionable.”

golfcourseThe trial judge sided with Pritikin, and on Wednesday Miami’s Third District Court of Appeal agreed.

Kluger and his colleagues are seeking $2.5 million in compensation for legal fees. The appeals court granted Pritikin’s motion for attorney fees — and added attorney fees for the appeal process as well. Pritikin attorneys are now working to set up a September hearing to determine an exact number.

A spokesperson for Trump Hotels did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The overwhelming credible and substantial evidence reflects that Trump Endeavor undertook a series of pretextual maneuvers in an effort to force Pritikin to vacate the leased premises,” Circuit Court Judge Rodriguez wrote in his 2017 ruling siding with Pritikin. “The court finds that Pritikin is the prevailing party on the significant issues of the case and is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.”

Kluger said Trump Endeavor has a right to file a petition with Florida’s Supreme Court but that it was unlikely to go through.

“For all intents and purposes, all their appellate rights are done,” said attorney Philippe Lieberman. “Now all that needs to be decided is the amount of legal fees that Trump needs to pay Pritikin, and that number is going to be substantial.”

Read the full story in the Miami Herald.

Commercial Property Executive: Gearing Up for the 2018 Hurricane Season

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Real estate professionals in high-risk areas have learned the lessons hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria laid out last year, and used them in the preparation process for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, now underway. Taking preventive measures is paramount in minimizing damage. However, having a strong insurance policy is equally important…

A comprehensive insurance policy could ultimately smooth out difficult situations left behind by calamities. This task falls to property owners and tenants—landlords must review their assets at least yearly, as the property’s value is determined at the time of loss, according to Philippe Lieberman, a founding member of Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine.

Moreover, parties must have a clear understanding of their lease agreements, making sure that they know who is responsible for obtaining the property insurance and that it covers all types of property loss. For example, in the case of a triple net lease, the tenant is required to pay all real estate taxes, as well as insurance and maintenance.

“Many commercial insurance policies contain coinsurance clauses, which are designed to force or encourage policyholders to insure their properties to a certain percentage—usually 80 to 90 percent—of the properties’ true value. If the amount of insurance is found to be under the coinsurance percentage, then a penalty is applied, which reduces the payout at the time of a loss,” Lieberman concluded. In such cases, there is a risk of litigation over the insurance payment amount.

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Failing to Defend Litigation: Strategic or Silly?

By Todd A. Levine

It is not uncommon for businesses that are suffering financially to make the strategic decision not to defend a lawsuit.  Particularly during the recession, I saw many businesses that simply could not withstand the cost of litigation, choosing instead to allow the plaintiff to obtain a default judgment.

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Associates’ Corner: Opposing the Transfer of a Case to the Complex Business Litigation Section – Can You Stop It?

By Meredith A. Nelson

Rule 1.201 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure governs the types of cases that qualify as “Complex Litigation” for the purpose of being transferred to a Complex Business Litigation division section (“CBL”).  While parties may agree, by stipulation, to transfer a case into the CBL, oftentimes, the parties do not agree.  It is not uncommon for one party to propose a transfer after a series of court orders that hurt that party’s case.

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