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[U] Trent Motel Associates, L.P. v. Stadium Hotel Restaurant Group, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 20, 2013

TRENT MOTEL ASSOCIATES, L.P.
v.
STADIUM HOTEL RESTAURANT GROUP, INC., AND BRET LEVY D/B/A/ BENNY THE BUM'S INC., APPEAL OF: BRET LEVYTRENT MOTEL ASSOCIATES, L.P.
v.
STADIUM HOTEL RESTAURANT GROUP, INC. AND BRET LEVY D/B/A/ BENNY THE BUM'S INC. APPEAL OF: STEPHEN AND RHODA LEVYTRENT MOTEL ASSOCIATES, L.P.
v.
STADIUM HOTEL RESTAURANT GROUP, INC., AND BRET LEVY D/B/A/ BENNYTHE BUM'S INC. Appeal of: Matt Levy

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Entered February 29, 2012 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No.: September Term, 2009 No. 000794

Appeal from the Order Entered March 1, 2012 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No.: September Term, 2009 No. 000794

BEFORE: MUSMANNO, J., WECHT, J., and PLATT, J. [*]

MEMORANDUM

WECHT, JUDGE.

Bret Levy ("Levy"), Stephen and Rhoda Levy ("Parents"), and Matt Levy ("Brother") (collectively "Appellants") appeal from the February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012 orders enforcing a settlement agreement between Appellants and Trent Motels Associates, L.P. ("Trent") and Stadium Hotel Restaurant Group, Inc. ("Stadium") (collectively "Appellees"). We affirm.

In its opinion ordering the enforcement of the settlement agreement between the parties, the trial court detailed the factual and procedural history of this case as follows:

This case has a long and tortured history with this court. [Levy] and [Stadium] are members of a joint venture formed to operate a Benny the Bum's restaurant at the Holiday Inn-Stadium Philadelphia. [Trent] is the owner of the Hotel and the landlord of the Hotel Restaurant. Levy and Stadium are the tenants of the Hotel Restaurant. Levy was the manager and controlled the operation and finances of the restaurant.
On September 11, 2009, Trent instituted suit against Levy and Stadium seeking money damages for breach of the lease, ejectment and declaratory judgment. Trent alleged Levy and Stadium failed to abide by the obligations under the lease including failure to pay rent, failing to pay city liquor taxes and failing to adhere to the terms and conditions of the Hotel's franchise agreement with the Holiday Inn. Simultaneously with the filings of the complaint, Trent also filed a complaint for eviction against Levy and Stadium in landlord tenant court. On October 16, 2009, Trent obtained a judgment of possession. Levy appealed the notice of possession.
On September 17, 2009, Trent filed a petition for preliminary injunction. On September 29, 2009, the parties entered into a court approved stipulation resolving the injunction. The stipulation required Levy to produce among other documents all tax reports for the purpose of renewing the tenant's liquor license. On October 5, 2009, Trent filed a petition for contempt since Levy failed to comply with the conditions of the September 29, 2009 stipulation. On October 29, 2009, after a hearing, the court entered an order compelling Levy to comply with the September 29, 2009 stipulation.
On February 1, 2010, Trent filed a petition for an injunction against Levy seeking to temporarily take over the operation of the Hotel Restaurant and to enjoin Levy from removing any furniture, equipment or fixtures therein. On February 4, 2010, the court issued a rule to show cause upon Levy as to why an injunction should not be granted and scheduled a hearing for February 16, 2010. While the petition for injunction was pending, Levy surreptitiously removed and sold restaurant equipment to William Kearney, a close family friend to the Levy family. Levy sold the equipment to Kearney for $5, 000, a sum which was under 5% of [the] value [of the kitchen equipment]. The equipment included tables, chairs, stools, and kitchen equipment.
On February 16, 2010, the rule returnable date for the injunction petition[, ] Trent[, ] having learned of the equipment's removal, presented evidence that everything taken from the Hotel Restaurant was property of the Hotel Restaurant or the Joint Venture. Levy argued without presenting any evidence or testimony that the property taken belonged to him. Although Kearney was present in the courtroom for the hearing, he was never called as a witness by Levy. Moreover, no testimony was elicited or evidence presented by either party as to where the property was located and whether it was still in Levy's possession or if it had been sold. As such a presumption existed that the equipment removed was still in the possession of Levy.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the court entered an order, dated February 16, 2010, granting immediate possession of the Hotel Restaurant to Trent, enjoining Levy from removing any furniture, fixtures, equipment or any other tangible property from the Hotel Restaurant and ordering Levy to return the property removed from the Hotel Restaurant within five (5) days of February 16, 2010. Prior to the expiration of the deadline set forth in the February 16, 2010 order for Levy to return the property to the Hotel Restaurant, Levy's counsel informed the court that the equipment had been sold to Kearney on February 9, 2010.
On February 22, 2010, the court[, ] after having been notified that Levy sold all equipment to Kearney on February 9, 2010, entered Trent's proposed order enjoining Levy, Kearney, and/or any other third party from selling or transferring any equipment or property identified in the February 16, 2010 order. The court also issued a rule upon Levy to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of the February 16, 2010 order. On June 2, 2010, after a hearing, Levy was found in contempt of this court's order dated February 16, 2010.
On February 25, 2010, Levy appealed this court's February 16 and February 22, 2010 orders to the Superior Court and also filed an application for emergency stay. On March 9, 2010, the Superior Court issued a temporary stay for Trent to file a response to the stay application. On March 26, 2010, the Superior Court issued an order lifting the temporary stay and denying Levy's stay application.
On July 11, 2011, the Superior Court affirmed the court's issuance of an injunction but remanded the preliminary injunction to the court for the imposition of a bond. On July 25, 2011, the court reinstated the February 16, 2010 injunction order and ordered Trent to file a bond with the Prothonotary in the amount of $5, 000 in accordance with the requirements of Pa.R.Civ.P. 1531(b). The court also scheduled a hearing for the contempt petition filed by Trent which sought to compel Levy to satisfy the terms of the prior contempt order entered on June 8, 2010. Trent requested relief in the form of payment to Trent of $119, 026.50 plus $100 per day from June 8, 2010 until the date of the court's ruling, or immediately remanding Levy to county prison until he purged himself of the contempt and paid the Hotel's reasonable attorney fees and costs.
On September 6, 2011, Levy appeared with his parents ["Parents"] and ["Brother"] for a scheduled contempt hearing.[1] Pursuant to the court's instruction, the contempt hearing was transferred from Courtroom 602 City Hall to a courtroom at the Criminal Justice Center. At that time, Levy was informed by his specifically retained contempt counsel, Samuel Stretton, Esquire, that he could go to jail if he did not settle. In the hallway outside the courtroom prior to the hearing, Trent, Stadium, Levy and his family reached an agreement to globally resolve all outstanding litigation including the instant matter as well as the litigation involving Levy's mother and brother filed in this court, the race discrimination suit filed by Levy in federal court and the fraudulent conveyance action filed by Trent in New Jersey.
The material terms of the settlement were placed on the record and consisted of the following:
1. Entry of judgment against Levy in the amount of $500, 000. The judgment will be paid in cash in the amount of $125, 000 payable within 90 days from September 6, 2011. The balance of $375, 000 to be paid in 60 monthly installments. The first 36 installments will be made at $4, 000 per month. The last 24 monthly installments will be made in the amount of $9, 625.
2. The entire judgment was to be secured by a lien on a house in Margate, New Jersey.
3. Complete release of all pending litigation between Trent, Stadium, Levy and his family. However, Stadium's claims against Levy were not to be released in the event the City of Philadelphia chose to pursue tax claims against Stadium's individual shareholders.
4. The amount of $31, 500 shall be released from the Prothonotary and shall be payable to Trent.
5. [Appellants] will cease cooperation with the NAACP as to any racial discrimination claims against Trent.

All parties [to the instant action], including Levy[, ] stated their agreement to the terms on the record.

After the settlement was agreed to, Trent and Stadium discovered a transfer of the Margate property to a trust called the Vendome Irrevocable Trust, of which [Parents] are Co-Trustees. Trent and Stadium were never informed of this transfer by Levy. Despite numerous requests by Trent and Stadium, Levy failed to produce any documents regarding the Trust. Levy has also failed to make payment[] of $125, 000, the first installment under the Settlement Agreement. Trent and Stadium filed the instant petition to enforce the settlement based on Levy's refusal to meet his obligations under the ...


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