The Second Division Circuit Court was set to hear arguments between Rain Investments, dba Saracen Cinema 8, owned by Steven Mays Jr., and Okorie Ezime against James Vu, John Vu and Tuyien (Judy) Vu Friday, however the Vu’s nor an attorney to represent the Vu’s were in attendance for the case despite being ordered to be in attendance by the court.
Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt stated that the court sent notice to Vu ordering her to be in attendance, but the order was sent back to his court showing a vacant address, and the order was unable to be forwarded.
Despite their failure to appear Wyatt granted Breach of Contract in favor of Saracen Cinema 8 while denying all other requests ruling them inconsistent with no material issue of facts. The original complaint asked for an order against the owners of the mall for $31.5 million, as well as attorney fees and punitive damages.
The motion for the $31.5 million in summary judgment was filed by Little Rock attorney Verona Swanigan, who based her figure on a 2018 profit and loss form which showed that the theater claimed a profit of $523,477 which she said Mays and Ezime contended was lower than what the theaters had earned in the past because Vu was operating the theaters and “failed to maintain the theaters and was illegally steaming movies which significantly reduced the quality of the theater and attendance.”
Court filings show that they went on to contend that Vu told them the theater was worth $10 million and that it should earn $1 million a year, and the motion filed by Swanigan wants Wyatt to award Mays and Ezime just over $1 million a year for 35 years, the length of the original lease, or for a minimum of 10 years.
In June 2019, Mays and Ezime signed a lease with Vu to operate the Saracen Cinema 8 and according to the original complaint, filed May 19 of this year, Vu was obligated to do certain maintenance and to get a third-party inspector to evaluate the condition of the heating, plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and other systems. That complaint said Vu did not obtain the third-party inspector and Mays and Ezime spent more than $18,000 to repair problems with the heating and air conditioning systems, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, mold and pest infestation.
Mays and Ezime contended that they stopped paying rent to make the repairs needed and Vu locked them out of the building, prompting the initial complaint.
Vu later contended that the mall was foreclosed on and shut it down in the late summer, and Swanigan contended that the law firm Vu identified as the one representing them in the foreclosure was not licensed to practice law in Arkansas and they did not represent Vu.
In addition to ruling in favor of Breach of Contract, Wyatt ruled that Saracen Cinema 8 will have 30 days to retrieve their property from the Pines Mall and must provide accounting for all rent paid since his injunction filed on May 20, 2020 to stop eviction process and ruling rent must be paid to a trust account rather than in person to Judy Vu. Wyatt made the ruling regarding the trust account permanent on June 4, 2020.
Wyatt ordered the Breach of Contract case to be heard by a jury trial so money damages can be set.
Wyatt also informed those in attendance that the Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered a halt to all jury trials at this time, however, this will be the first case to be heard by his court once jury trials resume.