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Jeweler's win in Levis suit voided

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Licata Jewelers had its court decision overturned in its case against Levis Commons.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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A court decision in 2010 that gave Licata Jewelers Inc. a victory in a leasing dispute with the Perrysburg retail center Levis Commons and its leasing agent, Hill Partners Inc., has been overturned by the Ohio Sixth District Appellate Court and was sent back to Wood County for a new trial.

The court of appeals, which is based in Toledo, said evidence was introduced into the trial in June, 2010, that should have been excluded and that there is doubt about how the jury might have ruled had they not been exposed to that evidence.

"Here, we cannot determine that had the error not occurred, the jury would have probably made the same the decision," the appellate court said in its recent decision.

The case has been sent back to the original trial judge, Alan Mayberry of Wood County Common Pleas Court. A pretrial hearing has not been scheduled.

Joseph Licata, owner of Licata Jewelers, sued the Perrysburg shopping center and its leasing agent in Wood County Common Pleas Court contending he was fraudulently induced to open a store in Levis Commons.

He alleged the defendants did so by showing him documents indicating that Macy's, Old Navy, Trader Joe's, and other stores would soon open stores in the center, thereby driving foot traffic to his jewelry store. He also stated his lease included a no-compete clause prohibiting another independent jeweler from locating nearby for at least a year.

Once he moved in, Mr. Licata contended, the lease terms were not complied with, the named stores didn't come into the shopping center, and another jeweler was allowed to rent nearby. A jury ruled in his favor and awarded him $200,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.

However, in its appeal, Levis Commons and Hill Partners argued that the lease that Mr. Licata signed stated that tenants should not rely on any representations, other than those contained specifically in the lease, about the occupancy or future occupancy of any tenants in the shopping center. The appeals court said that any evidence relating to future tenants in the phase two section of Levis Commons, where Licata Jewelers was located, should have been excluded at trial.

Mr. Licata "forfeited his right to rely on any representations pertaining to future tenants … when he executed the lease with Levis because any such representations would be in direct conflict with the terms of the lease," the appeals court wrote.

-- Jon Chavez

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