AZA Wins Sizable Legal Fees Award for CITGO in Unusual Eviction Case
November 8, 2013
HOUSTON – A judge in Bryan, Texas, awarded a stunning $187,000 in attorneys’ fees to CITGO Petroleum Corp. after it won an unusually complex eviction case litigated by attorneys Monica Uddin and Alisa Lipski of Houston’s Ahmad Zavitsanos Anaipakos Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA.
The case itself and the amount of legal fees are both highly unusual, says Ms. Uddin. “Eviction cases are normally very simple matters,” she says.
CITGO Petroleum had leased a building to house its Pipeline Control Center and office suites from Astin Redevelopment Group, LLC, of Bryan. CITGO transports 1.6 million barrels of gasoline per day from its Pipeline Control Center to consumers in five different states. CITGO contended that eviction would not only gravely endanger CITGO’s business operations, but would also have had a significant impact on the Gulf Coast economy.
The lease agreement called for Astin to significantly renovate the property at CITGO’s expense. The renovations were to be completed within 60 days from the start of the lease. Until the renovation was substantially complete, CITGO was not liable for any rent, according to the lease.
However, the renovation languished, and months went by with little work completed. Ms. Uddin says CITGO spent more than $100,000 on the project, but the work was slow and poorly done, failing even to meet legal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Texas Accessibility Standards. CITGO negotiated to take over the construction project, but Astin took nearly six weeks just to turn over the construction plans. Almost immediately afterward, Astin sued CITGO for eviction because of unpaid rent.
After a Justice of the Peace court twice dismissed Astin’s suit for procedural defects, Astin pursued eviction in Brazos County Court at Law No. 1. There, Judge Amanda Matzke ruled in CITGO’s favor during Ms. Uddin’s opening arguments.
Although the trial was still in its early stages, attorneys’ fees in the case had accumulated, largely because of the need for extensive documentation of the construction project and the complicated legal battle with Astin.
John Zavitsanos, AZA’s managing partner and co-founder, says, “Monica and Alisa did an outstanding job on this case, which dramatically demonstrates what smart, effective legal representation can mean for the client.”
The case is Astin Redevelopment Group, LLC v. CITGO Petroleum Corporation, No. 4975-B in County Court at Law No. 1, Brazos County, Texas.
Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, securities fraud, construction and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms in the 2014 listing of the nation’s leading law firms. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 1000. AZA has been hired on many occasions by the same companies the firm has prevailed against at trial. Read more at http://www.azalaw.com.