Plaintiffs got a mixed verdict Monday in a lawsuit involving PF Holdings, the parent company that owns Columbus’ Ralston Towers.
Four Seasons Lawn Care filed claims in Magistrate Court alleging PF Holdings and Miracle Mile Realty Group, which was managing rental property in Columbus and Phenix City for PF Holdings, had failed to pay monthly bills for landscaping services.
Attorney Hayden Barnes, who represented the lawn care company, said Four Seasons was owed $3,850 for work performed in December 2016 at Columbus’ Eagles Trace Apartments, 2001 Torch Hill Road, and $1,600 for work in January 2017 at Phenix City’s Edmond Estates Apartments, 1302 6th Place S.
Attorney Christy Maples, who represented Miracle Mile, said the management company stopped overseeing those properties in December 2016, so it could not be held responsible for services rendered afterward.
Richard Kemmer, the attorney for PF Holdings, argued Four Seasons failed to prove its case, as it could produce no contract for work at Edmond Estates. Four Seasons also failed to account for later payments that were not noted in its records, he said.
Nicole Howard, project manager for Four Seasons, attested to invoices she said were sent to Miracle Mile, and said the company paid other bills, though often the payments were late. “We had two checks that actually bounced,” she said. The contract was signed in April 2016, she said.
The defense attorneys questioned whether the payments were the responsibility of Miracle Mile or another entity. “We were billing Miracle Mile,” Howard said.
She said computer problems precluded her producing a contract for the Edmond Estates work.
Judge Steven Smith concluded services were rendered for Eagles Trace based on a valid contract, so the $3,850 would be paid with court costs. But he could not hold the defendants accountable for the Edmond Estates’ work without a contract, he said.
The judge also clarified a settlement in a claim involving the Ralston itself: Caraway Group Inc., doing business as ServPro of Columbus, alleged PF Holdings owed it for cleanup work after a fire and water damage at the 12th Street tower.
The two parties had come to an agreement May 9, deciding PF Holdings would pay Caraway $14,345 in three installments, the first due that month.
But the court had been unaware of the agreement, which had not been signed.
The agreement added $4,000 in attorney’s fees if the payments weren’t made on time, but the court’s jurisdiction is limited to amounts of $15,000 or less, so the attorneys decided to bring the total to that threshold, adding only $655.
Barnes said after the hearing that smaller, local companies must carefully document their work when dealing with “large, out-of-state businesses.” Miracle Mile is based in Las Angeles and in Brooklyn, N.Y., and PF Holdings is based in New Jersey, he said.
“The only thing I wished that we had done was have more documentation going forward,” he said. “Small businesses can protect themselves by having written contracts in advance for every job, every project, and you can usually avoid problems like this going forward. … Getting justice for them when they’re short-changed is difficult. It takes time and money.”