LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Little Rock law firm is fighting the owners of a downtown high rise arguing they failed to make repairs letting parts of the building and parking garage become unsafe.
The owners of Bank of America Plaza, 200 West Capitol LLC, sued Wright, Lindsey and Jennings LLP asking for nearly $3.3 million including nearly $400,000 for unpaid rent along with late fees, triple damages, and the full payout of the lease.
In response, the law firm filed its own suit saying the building owners promised to make repairs but didn’t.
“We’re by far the largest tenant in the building,” Steve Lancaster, a Managing Partner at Wright, Lindsey and Jennings said. “It’s a shame that its reached that point but here we are.”
For the past 20 years, the firm has leased 6 floors of the building. Currently, the monthly rent is $65,797, but Lancaster says they haven’t been footing the full bill since November 2020.
“In this lease, we negotiated some provision that provided if they didn’t make the agreed-upon repairs, we would reduce the amount of rent we paid each month,” he explained.
Lancaster says the list of repairs isn’t getting any shorter. He points to the parking garage as one of the biggest concerns, where concrete is crumbling exposing steel supports.
“We had a hole open up in the exit ramp. You could see down 4 or 5 feet,” Lancaster said. “Their car is going to get damaged, or they’re going to get hit with some falling concrete.”
He says the list of concerns include water pipes that burst in February flooding several floors, leaking windows, and an inadequate HVAC system.
The building owners are represented by Gill Ragon Owen. In a phone call with Attorney Aaron Heffington, he wouldn’t answer specific questions. Heffington later emailed a statement saying, “it is our client’s policy not to discuss ongoing litigation. We stand by the allegations in our Complaint, and look forward to making our case in court.”
According to the lawsuit, the building owners claim they made all repairs required by the lease, which the law firm okayed in letters.
However, Lancaster says weeks later the firm learned fixes weren’t adequate so it wrote back to the owner’s saying it wouldn’t pay full rent until the job was done right.
“What I would describe as half-hearted attempts to repair,” Lancaster said.
Fox 16 Investigates asked if the firm reported any concerns to code compliance, Lancaster responded, “No, not that I’m aware of. We report problems to the landlord.”
In a counter-complaint the firm is also seeking damages saying the responsibility, in this case, falls on the landlord.
“We’re ready willing and able to pay the rent amounts we agreed, but first you’ve got to finish this work.”
Given the safety concerns in the parking garage, Fox 16 Investigates asked the law firm if it considered hiring its own structural engineer to inspect the space. The firm says it hasn’t done that yet, but is willing to talk about it.