SINGAPORE — Two more businesses are locked in a legal tug-of-war with Marina Square — joining a former tenant, which is counterclaiming damages from the mall’s operator — over rodent activity there.
Former tenant Pita Pan Management Pte Ltd is countersuing the mall for damages, after the latter started legal proceedings against it. Saigon Times Pte Ltd, an existing tenant, is claiming damages from the mall and several of its fellow tenants, after the rat problem resulted in a significant drop in business.
Pita Pan Management, which manages former tenant Pita Pan, had been drawn into a lawsuit after the mall operator, Marina Centre Holdings, initiated legal proceedings against it last August, court papers obtained by TODAY showed.
In an amended statement of claim filed on Oct 29 last year, the mall claimed Pita Pan Management had breached the terms of its lease and failed to pay the sums agreed under it.
In total, the mall operator is claiming S$189,680.10 from Pita Pan Management for rent and other items.
Occupying a second-floor unit and serving vegetarian Mediterranean food, Pita Pan had stopped operations on Nov 2 last year, eight months shy of the expiry of its three-year lease.
In its Nov 12 amended defence and counterclaim, Pita Pan Management argued that the mall had breached the implied terms of its letter of offer.
It claimed that the letter had implied that the mall was responsible for ensuring that a rat infestation would not occur “that would disrupt and/or cause damage” to the business, among other things. The firm also alleged that the mall operator had been “negligent”.
Pita Pan had faced a continuous decline in sales in the wake of the bad press surrounding the mall’s rodent problems, which began in January last year, when a rat was found in a tray of vegetables at Hotpot Culture, a restaurant in the mall.
After the adverse publicity, Pita Pan’s average monthly sales from last January to August plummeted about 37 per cent to $27,747.06, from an average of S$44,300.47 between July 2013 and December 2014.
For loss of sales, Pita Pan Management is counterclaiming damages from the mall operator totalling S$132,427.48. The mall, in its Nov 26 reply and defence to this counterclaim, had denied that there was a rodent infestation, and said it did not cause Pita Pan “loss and damage”.
It noted that Pita Pan Management had agreed under a clause in the lease that the lease constituted “the entire and only agreement”. Furthermore, exclusions set out in some of the lease’s clauses meant that the mall was not liable for breaches of any implied terms, it added. The mall denied that it owed a duty of care to Pita Pan, as tenants are required, under their lease, to upkeep their premises and keep them free of rodents. It owed a duty of care only in relation to the common areas of the mall, it noted.
Court documents showed that the mall operator has applied for a summary judgment against Pita Pan Management for S$166,621.00, largely for rent owed from last January to July.
In a separate case filed last month, Saigon Times Pte Ltd, which operates Saigon Baguette, had sued the mall operator and eight tenants, including Mouth Restaurant and Han’s, claiming damages totalling S$249,000.
Business at Saigon Baguette, which serves Vietnamese cuisine, had plunged 80 per cent since news emerged in January last year that the National Environment Agency had detected rodent activity in the false ceilings of 14 of the mall’s food-and-beverage establishments and at a bin centre, the firm said in its statement of claim on Jan 18.
The restaurant claimed that the mall had “wilfully ignored” all of its requests. It had asked the mall to seal a hole in its storeroom through which an aluminium pipe runs, which it believes was a source of the rat problem.
Saigon Baguette owner Kok Chiang Loong, 35, said yesterday the mall had repossessed its unit last month, although its lease had not been terminated.
He added that it is in discussions with the management to explore the possibility of resuming operations at an alternative location in the mall.
TODAY had earlier reported that the mall operator was seeking compensation and damages from Caerus Holding, which manages former tenant Lady M, after the confectionery pulled out of the mall in January last year.
Caerus had counterclaimed damages from the mall, citing the “loss and damage” it suffered as a result of the rodent problems.