By Sarah Trefethen
A Supreme Court judge dealt a blow last week to an attempt to bring a class-action lawsuit against New York City landlords on behalf of tenants displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
In the case Adler v. Ogden Cap Properties, a group of three tenants of Sandy-affected buildings approached the court to create a class-action lawsuit in which all similarly affected tenants would sue all affected landlords for rent that they paid during the time that their apartments went without electricity or were otherwise deemed uninhabitable.
Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich partially granted a motion for summary judgment requested on behalf of the landlords and property management companies named in the case, dismissing the claims of two of the three plaintiffs on the grounds that they had left their apartments for the duration of the storm. The third tenant’s claim was also dismissed, with leave to refile an amended complaint within 20 days.
In her decision, the judge expressed reservations about treating tenants in storm-affected buildings as a single group in court because every apartment is different.
“Computing damages in any way other than tenant-by-tenant runs the risk of glossing over the needs of each tenant and the individual efforts of each landlord,” the judge wrote.
Mara Levin, the Herrick, Feinstein attorney who represented the landlords, called the ruling a victory for her clients.
“I think the court really tried to send a message that these types of claims are best adjudicated on an individual basis,” she said. The judge “clearly was not pleased that the plaintiffs had attempted to bring a bilateral class-action suite of this magnitude.”