By James Comtois
Published: May 3, 2010 - 2:21 pm
A federal district court judge has given the go-ahead for a class-action lawsuit to proceed against landlord Pinnacle Group NY and its chief executive, Joel Weiner.
Plaintiffs Marjorie and Theodore Charron, Andres Mares-Muro, Raymond Andrew Stahl-David, and Kim Powell allege that Pinnacle and Mr. Weiner have engaged in a wide ranging scheme to harass and intimidate its tenants and evade New York's rent regulation laws with its properties. In addition, the plaintiffs charge that Pinnacle's conduct violates the federal racketeering statute, RICO, and the New York Consumer Protection Act.
In her April 27 opinion, which did not address whether or not Pinnacle had violated RICO or the New York Consumer Protection Act, Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York certified two overlapping classes to proceed against Pinnacle. She stated that if the plaintiffs' allegations are true, then all of Pinnacle's rent-regulated tenants “either have been subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to the same general course of allegedly fraudulent and harassing conduct, the same pattern of racketeering.”
According to Jenner & Block, the law firm appointed to serve as lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the court certified a class comprised of all persons who, as of April 27, 2010, are tenants in rent-regulated apartments in New York City directly or indirectly owned in whole or in part by the Pinnacle Enterprise. The company controls or owns over 400 apartment buildings across the city.
The court also certified a liability class so that those tenants seeking damages for Pinnacle's conduct will have the opportunity to prove that Pinnacle and Mr. Weiner violated RICO and state consumer protection laws. The liability class is comprised of anyone who was a tenant in a rent-regulated apartment in the city directly or indirectly owned by Pinnacle at any time between July 11, 2004, and April 27, 2010.
Ms. McMahon directed Jenner & Block to submit a proposed method of notifying all members of the liability class of the suit to the court within 14 days.
Pinnacle's conduct has previously been the subject of an enforcement action by the New York attorney general's office, which resulted in Pinnacle repaying over $1 million to tenants.
Ken Fisher, the attorney representing Pinnacle, said in a statement that the landlord is "in the process of reviewing the court's procedural decision" to determine its rights for an appeal, adding that the firm believes the suit's allegations are "baseless and that will be proven if and when this matter goes to trial."