Store owners lose appeal against Parkdale Mall

David Yates Aug. 27, 2008, 9:25am

If shoppers have been wondering what happened to Urban Collection at Parkdale Mall, the store's owners have been tied up in litigation over their lease for the last two years.

Earlier this month, justices on Texas' Ninth Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling dismissing Robert and Cynthia Teates' claims against the mall's management company.

Several years ago, Parkdale entered into a written lease with the Teates to open Urban Collection. The lease was set to expire Sept. 30, 2006, and on Sept. 22, 2006, Parkdale's agent called Robert and left a message advising him that the lease would not be renewed and asked that he vacate the premises, the opinion authored by Justice Hollis Horton states.

The Teates, African Americans, felt as though they were being racially discriminated against, court documents say. On Sept. 29, 2006, Robert filed a request for injunctive relief with a district court in Jefferson County against Parkdale and its managing agent, CBL & Associates Management Inc.

In his petition, Robert alleged that without a month's notice he would suffer irreparable harm. Judge Donald Floyd heard the Teates' case and ordered a hearing for temporary injunctive relief be held Oct. 10, 2006.

Days before the hearing, Robert filed an amended application and added claims for damages and a claim for equitable relief on Oct. 6. The amended application also named Robert's wife Cynthia as a plaintiff.

The Teates also added a claim for tortious interference of contract allegedly due to Parkdale's refusal to negotiate with them because of their race. The amended application remained unverified and did not include any supporting affidavits, the justices wrote.

During the October 2006 injunction hearing, evidence was presented that the Teates were legally given 24 hours to vacate, as agreed upon in their lease, and that Parkdale had indeed attempted to negotiate a new lease with the couple.

"During the hearing, the trial court also heard testimony regarding the parties' negotiations over a new lease that contradicted the Teates' claim that Parkdale had refused to negotiate with them," the opinion states.

"An exhibit offered by the Teates demonstrated that on Sept. 13, 2006, Parkdale had proposed to renew the lease for a five-year term. Cynthia returned the proposal and asked for a two-year term. Parkdale subsequently leased the space to a new tenant at a significantly higher rental than the amount it proposed to the Teates."

On Oct. 16, 2006, the trial court denied the temporary injunction and ordered the Teates to vacate the store's space in the mall within 30 days.

The trial court's order did not dispose of the Teates' other claims seeking damages.

On Jan. 11, 2007, Parkdale's attorney sent a letter requesting the dates it could depose the Teates. Receiving no response, Parkdale's attorney sent another letter on Jan. 31, 2007, inquiring about dates for the Teates' depositions.

Still receiving no response, Parkdale's attorney sent a third request on Feb. 23, 2007, and advised the Teates' attorneys that Parkdale would file a motion with the court if it was unable to obtain agreed dates for the depositions, the opinion states.

On March 30, 2007, Judge Floyd heard Parkdale's motion to compel, and on April 4, entered an order stating the couple had 30 days to give their depositions.

"On May 21, 2007, Parkdale filed a motion for sanctions and requested that the trial court dismiss all of the Teates' claims," the opinion states.

"The Teates filed no response. The trial court subsequently granted Parkdale's motion for sanctions and ordered that Robert and Cynthia take nothing on their claims against Parkdale and CBL."

Shortly after the judge threw out their case for damages, the Teates appealed and requested a writ of mandamus forcing Floyd to continue their lawsuit.

"We find the trial court did not abuse its discretion and affirm the judgment," the opinion states.

"The individuals who violated the court's order to appear for their depositions are the persons suffering the consequences for doing so."

The appeal was submitted May 14 and delivered Aug. 14.

The Teates were represented in part by attorney Wyatt D. Snider.

Parkdale was represented in part by Karen R. Bennett.

Appeals case No. 09-08-00015-CV

Trial case No. E177-832A

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