Saks Fifth Avenue parent Hudson’s Bay Co. has filed a response in Puerto Rico Superior Court to landlord Taubman Centers’ Nov. 1 lawsuit, which alleges that the retailer has made little effort to repair and rebuild its store at the Mall of San Juan after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
Hudson’s Bay’s response includes a time line of the work it’s done since September to mitigate the damage and its efforts to repair and rebuild the store.
Taubman, which is seeking an injunction to compel Saks to repair its property, said in the court filing that it had yet to see “a meaningful effort to restore the store.” On Wednesday, a Taubman spokeswoman said, “While we have not seen the response, we stand behind our filing and the comments we have previously made regarding this matter.”
It’s become something of a he-said, she-said, with Hudson’s Bay asserting in its court filing that the lawsuit has no basis and that it’s been working diligently. However, the retailer points out it’s had to deal with interruptions in electricity on the island caused by ongoing power outages.
“Our store sustained significant and extensive damage from Hurricane Maria,” said Hudson’s Bay. “From the first moment that access to the store was possible, we’ve taken proactive and necessary steps to evaluate, mitigate and start to repair damages. We strongly believe that this lawsuit has no basis or merit and we will continue the work on our store while we defend against these claims.”
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria, a category 4 storm, tore through Puerto Rico, ravaging the island and leaving a majority of residents without power. San Juan’s mayor estimated it would take six months to restore electricity. After a portion of power was restored, a series of blackouts left San Juan in the dark on Nov. 8 and Nov. 15.
A source close to the situation said that Saks several days after the storm started to patch the unit’s roof, completing the work on Sept. 28. Once a power generator was secured on Oct. 5, a contractor was hired to do water extraction and drying work on the store.
An environmental consultant was then engaged to create a remediation plan to avert the risk of mold and fungus inside the store, according to the source.
Taubman [representatives] visited the store on Oct. 11 and were told that Saks was following through with its lease obligations, the source said, adding that the retailer removed all damaged inventory.
“We’ll continue to work on the store,” Hudson’s Bay said. “From the first moment we had access to the store we started taking the necessary steps.”