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

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.

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.


Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam


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