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Rizvi v. Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 17, 2018




         Nusrat and Eileen Rizvi (“Plaintiffs”) filed this lawsuit on August 21, 2017, ECF No. 1. Currently pending before the Court are four motions to strike Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. See William L Biddle and Urstadt Biddle Property Inc. Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 25; Nobel F. Allen, Hinckley, Allen, and Snyder LLP Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 27; Tibbetts Keating & Butler LLC Mot. to Strike Amended Compl., ECF No. 29; Coles Baldwin and Kaiser LLC, John B Kaiser, Spa Thea, LLC Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 30.

         All four motions raise similar arguments. First, they argue that Plaintiffs are not allowed to amend their complaint as of right under Fed. R. of Civ. P. 15(a)(1) because it was filed after a court-imposed deadline and after the applicable 21-day period. Second, assuming that the Plaintiffs seek leave to amend under Fed. R. of Civ. P. 15(a)(2), Defendants argue that amendment would be futile.

         Because the Court holds that Plaintiffs were entitled to amend as of right, it will not reach any question of the merits in this case. The motions to strike will be DENIED. The three pending motions to dismiss the initial complaint will be DISMISSED as moot, without prejudice to renewing any arguments raised as to the amended complaint at a later date.


         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiffs filed the initial complaint on August 21, 2017. Compl., ECF No. 1. In their initial complaint, Plaintiffs alleged they operated the Lanphier Spa from 1992 until 2012. Id. ¶ 15. In 1998, Plaintiffs allege that one of the defendants in this case, Urstadt Biddle Properties (“UBP”), acquired the shopping center in which the spa was located. Id. ¶ 19.

         In 2006, Plaintiffs allege they signed a five-year extension of their lease; the lease was set to expire on November 30, 2011. Id. ¶ 20. They claim that, following the lease extension, they began a set of renovations to the premises, completing these changes in 2009 for a cost of approximately $380, 000. Id. ¶ 23. Plaintiffs also allege that they timely notified UBP that they would accept another ten-year extension of the lease. Id. ¶ 25. UBP sent the terms of the lease and then requested additional documentation and signatures. Id. ¶¶ 26-32.

         Around the same time as the lease renewal, Plaintiffs began discussing selling the spa to Andrew Stefanou, who was then its manager. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiffs allege the initial purchase price was $3.5 million. In 2011, however, Plaintiffs allege that UBP changed its requirements for the lease renewal: they now required Stefanou's signature on any renewal. Id. ¶ 32-33.

         Plaintiffs allege that this pattern continued: UBP would state additional restrictions on the renewal of the lease, and Stefanou would lower his offering price. Id. ¶ 33-36. Finally, Plaintiffs state that they “confronted Stefanou about financials and the inference from them that he was sabotaging the business to depreciate its value, ” and they allege they fired him after he “threatened to ‘destroy the Rizvis.'” Id. ¶ 37. Four days later Plaintiffs allege that UBP informed them that UBP would not renew the lease without Stefanou as guarantor. Id. ¶ 38. According to Plaintiffs UBP stopped negotiating with them, and instead rented the facility to Stefanou, who began operating Spa Thea at the site. Id. ¶ 39-41.

         Plaintiffs then initiated legal action in state court, alleging that there was a conspiracy to evict them and release the premises; this action was eventually dismissed. Id. ¶ 43. In that state court action, Defendants Attorney Mario Cometti and Tibbetts, Keating and Butler, LLC, represented the Plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 46. UBP was represented by Defendants Hinckley, Allen, and Snyder, LLP. Plaintiffs assert that UBP and the Defendant law firms negotiated a settlement agreement that included terms related to Plaintiffs' eviction from the property, but that they “had not seen any ‘General Release' when the Stipulated Judgment was signed and thus discussed neither its putative terms or signing it.” Id. ¶ 47-50. Plaintiffs vacated the premises. Id. ¶ 54.

         Plaintiffs allege that they were provided copies of the “Stipulated Judgment” in 2013, which included a general release provision. Id. ¶ 60. They allege that, while the agreement bore their signatures, those “false signatures were lifted from other documents.” Id. ¶ 58.

         On March 28, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in state court for a Pure Bill of Discovery, and the court scheduled a hearing, presided over by Defendant Judge Antonio Robaina. Id. ¶¶ 63-64. Judge Robaina examined the allegedly forged agreements in camera and denied discovery, “stating the documents were identical except for a handwritten note on the upper right hand of the first page and the name of the County as Fairfield in faded ink . . . .” Id.

         B. ...

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