60 E. 9th St. Owners Corp. v. Zihenni
NEW YORK COUNTY
Justice Arthur Engoron
The court held a contested inquest in this landlord/tenant action in which recovery of attorney fees was sought by owner. Tenant Zihenni purchased shares in the building, and installed an air-conditioning unit and satellite dish on the exterior wall. Owner alleged the renovations were not authorized requiring Zihenni to remove the external items. Zihenni refused and owner sued, seeking, among other things, attorney fees. Zihenni questioned the fees arguing the simple dispute herein should not require over $310,000 in professional fees. The court stated such point of view concerned it, noting that while the instant litigation may have been "hotly contested," the subject matter was "garden variety." It stated while plaintiff may have wanted the best representation possible, it questioned whether a party that was entitled to legal fees was entitled to "gold-plated" legal work. The court stated it would not have expected getting a court order to compel a tenant to remove a satellite dish and air conditioner, and "legalize" interior renovations to take six years of expensive litigation. Thus, it awarded owner $200,000 in legal fees, plus architectural fees, and given Zihenni's default, owner was also entitled to judgment on its second cause of action.