A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury added $15 million in punitive damages in favor of mall developer Caruso Affiliated Holdings LLC on Tuesday in the company's suit against mall developer General Growth Properties Inc.
That award, on top of the $74.23 million that the jury awarded in compensatory damages, closes the case that was initially filed in 2004. The suit centered on Caruso Affiliated's position that Chicago-based General Growth intimidated the Cheesecake Factory Inc. while it was considering leasing space at Caruso Affiliated's forthcoming Americana at Brand mixed-use project in Glendale. Americana at Brand, which is expected to open next year, is next to General Growth's Glendale Galleria mall.
"I think the number is great," said Rick Caruso, who heads his namesake company, which developed the Grove and outdoor malls in Calabasas and Thousand Oaks. "What was most important was to be compensated for the loss they caused and second most important was the finding that they engaged in malice, fraud and oppression."
Caruso said that the money from the damages will be put directly back into the $369 million project, which includes shops, restaurants, apartments and condos.
"It is not a windfall by any stretch of the imagination the money goes into the project and makes us whole we had a loss of income and increased construction costs," Caruso said.
General Growth, which owns more than 200 malls across the country, could still appeal the ruling. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
"I talked to the jury afterward and they said they wanted to send a message to General Growth that what they did was wrong," Caruso said. "It is a huge message to the industry to allow competition. Just because you are a $20 billion company doesn't give you the right to stop competition."
Caruso also faces opposition from Westfield Group over his plans to build a mall at Santa Anita Park, a horse race track. Westfield is challenging the project's environmental impact report.
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