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Two Caruso companies must pay restaurant owners $125K in Americana dispute

September 20, 2012|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com
(Raul Roa/Staff…)

Two companies controlled by billionaire developer Rick Caruso were found liable by a jury this week for water damage to a restaurant formerly at the Americana at Brand and ordered to pay $125,000 in compensation.

In May 2009, staff at Caffe Primo noticed the hardwood floor in the restaurant was buckling and shortly thereafter — without any contact from Caffe Primo — Caruso’s representatives began sending weekly letters to restaurant owner Tony Riviera demanding the floor be repaired, according to court documents.

About two months later, a restaurant worker saw an employee contracted through the Americana’s management company spraying water under Caffe Primo’s door with a hose, according to the complaint.

The restaurant owners surmised that the water had damaged the floor, court documents state.

The contracted employee’s actions were caught on video and a copy was sent to Caruso representatives.

However, employees continued spraying water under the restaurant’s door and Caruso representatives continued to demand Caffe Primo repair the floor, according to court records.

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Caffe Primo, which was in the space currently leased to Chi Dynasty, eventually repaired the floor, but found it was damaged again a short time later.

Caruso’s companies filed a counter motion because Caffe Primo stopped paying rent after the second round of damage.

In its verdict, the jury awarded Primo Hospitality, which owns Caffe Primo, $1.4 million and granted Caruso’s companies about $1.275 million. Thus, Primo was the prevailing party, receiving almost $125,000.

Joel Moskowitz, executive vice president and general counsel for Caruso Affiliated, issued a statement saying they were pleased with the verdict, which cleared Caruso, a defendant in the case, of any personal responsibility.

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Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam

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