KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The attorney representing hundreds of former tenants treated poorly by a property management company with a troubled past is claiming victory after a recent ruling.
On Tuesday, a judge granted a judgment of more than $50 million to the tenants listed in a class-action lawsuit against KM-T.E.H. Realty 8 and Michael Fein, the former landlord.
“I feel pleased that the court delivered a strong, compelling statement,” attorney Greg Leyh said. “I feel like my clients were heard.”
In the judgment, which awards damages to 426 tenants who lived at the Ruskin Place Apartments, the judge cited several testimonies from victims. They shared their accounts of mold and bug infestations, the lack of heat or air conditioning and overall filthy conditions.
“It was a judgment that denounced the conduct of these landlords,” Leyh said. “You can’t do this.”
During one testimony, a mother of four told the judge she and her children slept with the lights on to keep the roaches from crawling on them.
Another mother, who lived at the complex while pregnant, feared for her safety “due to exposure to sewage smells and the lack of air conditioning and functional ventilation.”
“The testimony of tenants was so impactful, so emotional,” Leyh said. “It was really heart wrenching.
The judge also heard testimonies from past employees. A former property manager called the owners of Israel-based company “slumlords,” adding that she was forced to evict tenants “out of spite” if they complained too much.
“We had a maintenance guy who testified that he attempted to fix things and they told him, ‘Don’t fix them. We don’t have the budget for it.’”
Leyh said compelling testimony and the company’s abuse of the state’s judicial system ultimately led the court to support the punitive damages. He said T.E.H. Realty is notorious for using the court system to evict tenants, yet no one from the company showed up for this trial.
As for ensuring his clients get the money awarded, Leyh knows it is going to be an uphill battle, but he said he has some ideas.
“I’ve got a few things in mind, but I don’t think it prudent to telegraph at this point,” he said. “Other than to say, we are going to look under every rock and try and identify the whereabouts of the defendants and any other entity that is legally responsible for payment of the judgment.”