The founding partner of a New York law firm has set his sights on his own landlord – the New York Law Journal reports – filing a suit on behalf of the residents of Columbus Square, the luxury rental complex on Columbus Avenue just north of 97th Street.
According to Manhattan attorney C.K. Lee, founder of Lee Litigation Group, things are not going swimmingly at Columbus Square. He alleges that the owners of the complex, UDR Inc., have a side hustle going with a local swimming school, and are allowing swim classes to take place during hours that should be available for residents.
The lawsuit says Columbus Square tenants, who pay rents starting at about $3,900 for a studio, are promised daylong use of the 70-foot lap pool—on weekdays from 6am to 10pm and on weekends from 7am to 8pm. Only when they move in, claims Mr. Lee, do they find that the pool is rented out to nonresidents for a large part of each day. He says that local company SwimJim uses the pool most of the day on weekdays from 10am to 6pm, and from 9am to 1pm on weekends, during which time the pool is off-limits to residents.
The suit (read here) charges UDR with deceptive and unfair trade practices, false advertising, fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
Mr. Lee argues that UDR owes millions, if not tens of millions “over the six-year limitations period for breach of contract.” That’s based on his calculations that the value of a private pool membership in the city is at least $600 a month. In addition, he wants the defendants to hand over to the residents all earnings that they’ve received from the SwimJim deal.
Lee Litigation Group’s class-action suits have been widely publicized. It has specialized in “slack fill” suits, in which it’s sued major manufacturers for insufficiently filling product containers. A suit was brought against Wise Potato Chips, for instance, for selling oversized bags of chips with very few chips inside. Starbucks was sued for not filling up its Frappuccino bottles. The firm also filed a lawsuit over Pret A Manger’s wrap sandwiches, saying the “wrap was packaged with one inch of space between two halves.” This suit was settled.
The firm has also gone after companies that represent their products as being “natural” or having “no preservatives,” and has sued media companies under the ADA on behalf of the deaf, saying their websites don’t have captioned videos. Generally, the defendants settle, most likely out of reluctance to bring attention to their marketing practices. Lee Litigation is not always successful, though: a federal judge once threw out a suit that charged Advil with duping consumers by selling its product in oversized bottles, saying that it “did not pass the laugh test.”
Neither UDR nor Mr. Lee could be immediately reached for comment.