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.