RETAILER WINS DAMAGES FROM MALL DEVELOPER
Byline: Holly Haber
DALLAS — A Brownsville, Tex., specialty store owner won a $196,276 judgment against Melvin Simon & Associates and related entities in a suit that accused the developer of defrauding the retailer by providing false information about a mall.
The suit, filed in Hidalgo County State District Court in Edinberg, Tex., charged that the developer had induced Jules Janis to open a women’s specialty store in Sunland Park Mall in El Paso, Tex., with false information about the center’s sales per square foot, tenant mix and marketing plans.
According to court papers, Janis had actually wanted to open a store in a different Simon property, La Plaza Mall in McAllen, Tex., and a Simon agent promised him the first available prime space at La Plaza if he opened a unit in Sunland Park.
The suit said that Janis opened the Sunland Park store, Chicago Two, in July 1990, and despite its poor performance, he kept it open because he expected to improve his cash flow once he was able to open a unit at the successful La Plaza mall. That lease never materialized, the suit said, and Janis closed Chicago Two in July 1992.
Losses from the store were so great, Janis said, that he was forced also to close his first unit, called Chicago, at the Amigoland Mall, a Simon property in Brownsville. The jury awarded Janis $196,276 for the $125,000 he invested to build the El Paso store plus interest.
Court papers said Janus was told in 1989 that the mall did $200 a square foot, but the defendants failed to disclose that women’s apparel did $127.30.
The issue isn’t completely settled. Janis has appealed the judge’s ruling that he could not recover $4.2 million that he sought in individual damages for pain and suffering, financial damages and emotional stress. The appeal, filed in the 13th Supreme Judicial Court in Corpus Christi, is expected to go to trial in the fall, said Denis Downey, Janis’s attorney.
“The one case is settled, but the other one is continuing and involves damages, loss of credit for Mr. Janis and physical and mental suffering that he went through from losing his life savings,” Downey said.
“We feel that as a matter of law he has no individual claims,” countered Reynaldo Garza Jr., of Garza & Garza LLP in Brownsville, attorney for Melvin Simon. “They asked for jillions of dollars and they got a reimbursement of expenses for having set up in a mall.”
“We are not making any comment, especially since it’s still under litigation,” said a spokeswoman for Simon DeBartolo Group in Indianapolis. Melvin Simon changed its name to Simon DeBartolo in 1996.