The Real Deal New York

Town sued over “Dental Death Doctor” home listing

Luxor prez claims that meddling cost firm additional leads, brand recognition

June 26, 2014 08:00AM
By Hiten Samtani

Clockwise from top left: Gordon Sokich, Richard Kaul, Wendy Maitland and 69 West 83rd Street

Clockwise from top left: Gordon Sokich, Richard Kaul, Wendy Maitland and 69 West 83rd Street

Town Residential and its director of sales Wendy Maitland are being sued for more than a million dollars over the listing of an Upper West Side home formerly owned by Richard Kaul — an anesthesiologist once dubbed the “Dental Death Doctor” by the U.K. press.

Luxor Homes & Investment Realty, headed by Gordon Sokich, filed suit Friday in New York State Supreme Court alleging that Town and Maitland intentionally interfered with Luxor’s exclusive right to sell 69 West 83rd Street. The townhouse was owned by Kaul, an M.D. who was tagged with the grisly “Death” moniker after he accidentally killed a patient he sedated during a tooth extraction in 1999.

“It’s a clear David vs. Goliath situation,” Sokich told The Real Deal. “Town thought that the little guy could be pushed around and that’s why I’ve decided to take legal action.”

A spokesperson for Town said the suit was “entirely frivolous” since Town had an exclusive to sell the property. “It’s shameful,” the spokesperson continued, “that the plaintiffs are attempting to exploit a tragic death to generate some cheap headlines.”

Kaul was convicted in the U.K. of negligent manslaughter for the 1999 incident. He later moved to New Jersey, where he set up his practice.

Kaul purchased the seven-story, four-bedroom, five-bathroom Queen Anne-style house, located between Columbus Avenue and Central Park, for $3.6 million in 2005. He listed the property with Douglas Elliman in 2009 for $14 million. It subsequently went through several price chops.

Sokich secured the exclusive listing in February 2012 for a one-year period ending Feb. 23, 2013, according to court documents. The latest asking price for the property was $8.9 million.

In January 2013, however, Town agent Michelle Bourgeois and her supervisor Maitland notified Sokich that their firm had an exclusive listing on the property and asked him to remove Luxor’s listing, according to emails seen by TRD. Sokich countered by notifying Town that Luxor already had an exclusive listing on the property, and asked Town to immediately cease its marketing efforts.

Town, the complaint claims, “disregarded plaintiffs’ exclusive” and “aggressively marketed the townhouse,” going as far as promoting the listing on a CBS television segment.

On February 5, 2013, Luxor notified Town that the property had entered into a binding contract for $8.3 million, as TRD reported. The buyer was Karl Dasher, the CEO for North America of asset management firm Schroders. Luxor demanded that Town stop claiming it had an exclusive to sell the property.

Despite this demand, Town continued to inform Kaul of potential buyers, the complaint alleges.

Town did enter into an exclusive agreement with Kaul in January 2013 to sell the property, according to a copy of the contract reviewed by TRD. But Sokich claims that any agreement made between Town and Kaul during the period in which he held an exclusive was in violation of both Department of State and Real Estate Board of New York regulations.

“Maitland and Heiberger [Town founder Andrew Heiberger] are both members of REBNY,” Sokich said. “They know the rules.”

Luxor acknowledges in the suit that the firm made a commission on the sale. It claims, however, that because of Town’s alleged meddling it was denied the “other financial and reputational benefits” derived from having an exclusive on a posh Upper West Side townhouse.

All told, Sokich claims Town cost him more than a million dollars.

“Although I sold the property, Town damaged my reputation and prevented me from obtaining additional leads as a result of their misrepresentation,” Sokich said.

25 Responses to “Town sued over “Dental Death Doctor” home listing”

  1. June 26, 2014 at 8:32 am, john said:

    Wendy brought that mentality along for citihabitats.

    • June 26, 2014 at 12:21 pm, BillyB said:

      I worked for Citi Habitats years ago, Wendy never work there – just saying

      • June 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm, Guest said:

        She did work at Citi Habitats…

        • June 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm, Yomamma said:

          Just googled her name and citi habitats, no results, but her linked in showed up, again no citi habitats. I could be wrong but I remember her from bhs.

        • June 30, 2014 at 10:55 am, Broker Bob said:

          Nope, she worked at Corcoran.

  2. June 26, 2014 at 9:13 am, SoothSayer said:

    TOWN behaves like a schoolyard bully. If you do anything wrong they will sue you. If they screw up they will sue you. If we fight with each other they we will sue each other. Why would anyone want to work here? Now that Andrew is gone they have no one to blame all of their failures on.

  3. June 26, 2014 at 9:59 am, Jack Resnick said:

    town might have the worse reputation in the industry. maybe the planet. why would any agent want to work there or any seller list with them

  4. June 26, 2014 at 10:18 am, SimpleMath said:

    I never dealt with Town as “Town” per se, but I used to work at Citi Habitats so I know much of the management staff there on a very personal level from their prior incarnations. SoothSayer is right on the money when s/he wrote that they behave like schoolyard bullies. Therefore, my automatic operating assumption is to assume the very worst about their managers’ intentions and level of professionalism. However, just based on the facts as reported in the story above, I fail to see how this is Town’s fault in this instance. This seems to be an entirely frivolous lawsuit by Gordon Sokich.

  5. June 26, 2014 at 10:44 am, NYCBuddy said:

    Kaul sounds like he is the creator of the problems – how can you sign two different exclusives at the same time? Nevertheless, Sokich sold it and got paid. How Town damaged his reputation is beyond me, since this is the first I’ve ever heard of this. Town might be a bully, but it’s time to move on.

  6. June 26, 2014 at 11:12 am, Sorry said:

    thanks for the articles / comments. I now know not to EVER do future business with Town……

  7. June 26, 2014 at 11:28 am, ARL said:

    anyone who has dealt with luxor can attest that mr. sokich and his employees conduct business with little integrity. they sold the house and now a lawsuit? why not spend the time and effort selling another one? as somebody in the industry my experience with town has been very professional…

  8. June 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm, The Truth said:

    It’s illegal to take an exclusive when you know it’s listed with Luxor Homes. Those are state laws and REBNY rules which Wendy & Andrew sit on the board of governers and stole buyers and try to take credit for marketing it. I feel bad for the smaller firms. Elliman would never do that to Corcoran. Town would not do that to Elliman. It’s illegal to advertise a property when someone has a listing. What’s the point of an exclusive if some big bully firm can go over the top and steal your thunder and buyers. Luxor needs to stand up to the bully and hopefully REBNY does something for there violations

    • June 29, 2014 at 9:08 am, Char4Dew said:

      Good post, but REBNY gets far more money from the big agencies and that is where they will stand up. But NYDS – that is another story and little guy better sue for far more than just the commission and win; hope he has a written exclusive.

  9. June 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm, Charles said:

    Is a listing just about the commission? Seems to me everyone would want the reputation and glamour from selling a high end Townhouse.What about ethical responsiblity. isn’t Maitland a REBNY board member. I dont think Town would do that to Corcoran. Halsted would not do that to Douglas Elliman. How can Wendy think its ok to market a listing when another firm has an exclusive? Then continue to market the listing after it’s in contract. Hey…let me market one of Towns major listing, take the buyers and sellers and let’s see what happens. Just look at what happened with Heiberger and Sitt. Lawsuits everywhere. Sokich may have a point and it’s a great message. Don’t be bullied by a big firm. There is more to a listing then a commission. What about all of the money Town made by listing the property even though Luxor had an exclusive first and closed the deal. LET A JURY DECIDE!!!

  10. June 26, 2014 at 12:18 pm, BillyB said:

    I love how this article and a lot of the comments are making
    TOWN out to be the “bad guy/bully.” From reading this article it appears that
    the owner, Dr. Death isn’t the most upstanding honest guy, and neither is
    Luxor.

    When the owner approached Town to remarket his property, do
    you not think Wendy and her team discussed when his current exclusive was
    expired and when he wanted them to put the property on the market?

    Did the owner lie? Maybe. I am sure that Town would not
    market a property unless it had a fully executed exclusive, and the
    understanding that they were the only ones marketing the property.

    I have worked with many town brokers on deals, and have
    experienced nothing but the upmost professionalism, and courtesy.

    10/10 would work with town, 0/10 would work with Luxor.

    • June 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm, Gerta said:

      Precisely the reason for the suit by Luxor. if you feel that way, perhaps Sokich is correct in assuming that Town tarnished his reputation?

  11. June 26, 2014 at 5:45 pm, alecmonopoly said:

    Whether Wendy was right or wrong in this instance – we know that she is totally shady and has nearly lost her license on at least one occasion (One Madison). Great to be the face of a major brokerage – utter shenanigans at TOWN.

    • July 01, 2014 at 1:02 am, charles said:

      Judge for yourself. The lawsuit is publically available. You can read it and see Luxor’s listing agreement and emails between Sokich and Maitland. Just cut and past this link into browser – http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/iscroll/index.jsp – then type in access code on the page – you will then see INDEX NUMBER SEARCH box which you will then type – 1560472014.

  12. June 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm, Ethics said:

    I don’t think TOWN should have engaged with this listing until the actual expiration date of the previous agreement. Even if they got the OK from the seller, the previous (and at the point – current) exclusive agreement governs. It’s a shame the crew at TOWN failed to recognize that. If they really think this was their exclusive listing, why aren’t they after the commission paid to Luxur?!
    Because they don’t have any rights on it. Therefore, advertising another’s firms exclusive listing is a violation of DOS and REBNY rules.
    HOWEVER – The listing was on the market for almost a year by Luxur. Luckily for him he got a buyer in the last month of his agreement. I don’t think there was any damage done or lost leads.
    VERDICT: TOWN is guilty for not following the rules and forcing themselves upon an existing agreement. There will be some fines and compensation to Luxur.

  13. June 26, 2014 at 6:49 pm, Guest said:

    Whether Wendy was right or wrong in this instance – we know that she is totally shady and has nearly lost her license on at least one occasion (One Madison). Great to be the face of a major brokerage – utter shenanigans at TOWN.

  14. June 26, 2014 at 6:53 pm, Wasted time said:

    What was the point of this article? TRD you owe me 5 mins.

  15. June 27, 2014 at 9:28 am, Charles said:

    We can all form an opinion. Read the lawsuit and read the email exhibits from Sokich, Maitland. Judge for yourselves. Just go to this public website for NY county supreme court aka (“SCROLL” in google search) and type in index no# search: 156047- 2014. http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/iscroll/index.jsp **type in the entire number with no spaces or hyphen. LET A JURY DECIDE!!

  16. June 27, 2014 at 11:42 am, realdealreader said:

    http://www.northjersey.com/news/pompton-lakes-pain-doctor-a-shocking-story-of-damaged-patients-and-weak-oversight-1.584714

    This so-called dentist/doctor set up shop in NJ and had his medical license suspended here due to negligence.

  17. June 29, 2014 at 9:05 am, Char4Dew said:

    Why didn’t Luxor’s owner handle it long before by making sure that Town stops its marketing of a listing they no longer had OR did they both have the listing and should split the commission? How is it that when Luxor saw it on TV represented by Town nothing was done to correct it in a timely way. I really do not know who had the listing legally because IF it was my listing I would have stopped Town long ago. Something is fishy…Where town swims there is lots of fishy….

  18. July 04, 2014 at 8:36 pm, cheryl said:

    Brokerages should not be allowed to make up the rules at they go along. They should follow and respect the rules. Sometimes people just see dollar signs and disregard what they know if right. REBNY is also known for just giving a slap on the wrist. That is why these brokers keep doing these things that are wrong. That is also why these brokers went straight to the legal system.

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