The Real Deal New York

Judge dismisses Hakim’s lawsuit over “worst landlords” list

Landlord had attempted to sue Public Advocate Tish James for $15M in damages
By Eddie Small | May 09, 2018 12:15PM

Letitia James (Credit: Getty Images)

A judge has dismissed landlord Kamran Hakim’s lawsuit against Public Advocate Letitia James over his inclusion on her list of the city’s “100 worst landlords.”

Hakim had filed the lawsuit against James in 2016, arguing that her office unfairly included him on its “worst landlords” list in 2015 and 2016. He sought $15 million in damages. The suit claimed that four of the six buildings James cited, between 1205 and 1215 First Avenue, were empty and slated for demolition. It also requested that James stop publishing the report.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead, who had previously ruled that James could continue publishing the “worst landlords” list, officially dismissed Hakim’s lawsuit May 3, according to court filings. Hakim’s suit said that his inclusion on the list constituted libel and intentional infliction of harm, but Edmead ruled that both of these claims were without merit.

She wrote in her dismissal that the “worst landlords” list was not libelous because it was “pure opinion,” adding that Hakim’s argument that James’ office “took accurate factual data, and applied it in a way that produced an incorrect opinion” was not strong enough to constitute libel.

She also ruled against Hakim’s intentional infliction of harm claim, writing that publicly embarrassing landlords was only one aspect of the office’s list.

“The City and James plainly intended to shame the landlords on the list into improving the conditions of their buildings,” she wrote, specifying that the goal of this shame is to provide “a benefit to the public.”

Hakim, who recently went into contract with a group of investors to buy the Plaza Hotel for about $600 million, was named by James as the 34th worst landlord in 2015, 52nd worst 2016 and 26th worst in 2017, with 483 open violations across four buildings.

Hakim’s attorney Darren Marks said they are appealing the decision and declined to comment further.

James described the judge’s ruling in a statement as a victory for protecting tenants and said that “a far easier and more productive route” for landlords who have issues with her list “would be to actually fix their buildings so that they avoid the Worst Landlords Watchlist altogether.”