Kidlets trumps mall owner

The case went to trial last winter in Campbell River

Debbie Nuszdorfer is glad to be focussed on business after winning a lawsuit against her former landlord.

“We’re very relieved its over so we can be get back on with our lives and running our business,” the owner of Kidlets said Wednesday.

Nuszdorfer and her daughter Christina Assu are the owners of the children’s boutique, now located at Mariner Square. They used to be at Campbell River Common, but that came to an end when they were sued by mall owner Allan Edie.

According to documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Edie sued the mother and daughter for non-payment of rent, future payment from the unexpired lease, damages in the amount of three months rent, interest five per cent above prime, and lawyer fees totally approximately $255,000.

In response, the Kidlets’ owners countersued, stating they were induced to sign their lease based on, “…false representation made either negligently or fraudulently by representatives of the landlord.”

In 2006, Edie purchased Ironwood Mall and changed the name to Campbell River Common. That year Kidlets moved into the mall and the following year the parties signed a new eight-year lease.

According to testimony provided by Nuszdorfer and Assu, they signed the new lease based on the planned renovations and Edie’s promise the mall would once again be fully occupied. Prior to Edie’s purchase, the mall was described in court as a “retail dead zone.”

Other promises included the arrival of Winners and that the anchor tenants, Sears and Thrifty Foods, would open entrances directly into the mall. In the aftermath, Winners never arrived and Sears moved to a new location.

As for the renovations, Edie promised Kidlets $35,000 worth of leasehold improvements. Assu was in contact with the contractor who would let her know when Kidlets was approaching its spending limit.

However, this wasn’t done until the renovations were completed and the owners were informed they had gone $70,000 over their limit.

Assu told Edie she couldn’t afford the extra amount, so he proposed increasing Kidlets’ rent.

If that wasn’t enough, the roof over Kidlets was being renovated or repaired when it collapsed, sending debris through the store. As a result, Kidlets was closed for two weeks and the mall manager apparently told Assu they would not have to pay one month’s rent. It was a promise Edie refused to honour and Kidlets paid a $1,000 insurance deductible to have the roof repaired.

In the end, the case went to trial last winter in Campbell River. On Jan. 31, almost a year later, the trial judge sided with the Kidlets’ owners and awarded them $25,583. The judge found that the owners did not owe back rent and he believed their testimony over Edie’s.

“On the whole, I did not find Mr. Edie to be a credible witness,” the judge wrote.

Edie has 30 days to appeal the decision.