A Series of Over a Dozen Decisions in One Case Where We Represented a Private Landlord Against an Outrageously Litigious Rent Stabilized Tenant And Won
Pavia v. Couri -- a Case Study
The following is a series of over a dozen decisions regarding a case where we represented a private landlord against an outrageously litigious, Rent Stabilized tenant and won. A December 10, 2006 New York Times article that appeared on the front page of the Sunday Business Section said of this case that, "according to New York housing officials, [this case] is one of the nastiest residential wrangles in recent memory." These decisions are extremely instructional in persistent and original litigation tactics. They show how a determined litigant (in this case the landlord) can prevail by persevering in a cause he believes is just.
In this case, the premises was an apartment in a beautiful, restored brownstone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The tenant, James C. Couri, had been the tenant of the apartment since 1996 and was found by DHCR to be Rent Stabilized. The landlord, George Pavia, also resided in the building with his family.
Couri was a nightmare tenant. Couri erupted into a paroxysm of vicious harassment against Pavia, which included: over 230 harassing letters to Pavia and his representatives, which include racial slurs, inappropriate sexual comments and all manner of threats; harassing telephone calls to Pavia; a letter writing campaign of unfounded complaints against Pavia to the Bar Association, the IRS, the New York Times, other tenants of the building in which the subject premises is located, Pavia's contractors, the New York State Inspector General, the Police Department, Pavia's wife's apparent employer, and Child Protective Services; excessive noise; the refusal of access for repairs; ugly harassment of Couri's neighbor and Pavia's other tenant that itself included at least 47 letters, replete with inappropriate and bigoted homosexual comments, abusive phone calls, buzzer ringing and lawsuits, which resulted in the other tenant abandoning the building; and harassment of other tenants in the building. The New York Times reported (above) that, "The Pavia-Couri fracas has been marked by frequently barbed language, most often deployed by Mr. Couri in hundreds of letters, phone calls and rants fired off to his landlord, housing agencies, and Mr. Pavia's lawyers."
Couri was a particularly trying adversary because he is a chronic, pathological abuser of the legal process. In an action entitled Couri v. Cristiano, New York Supreme Court, in an affirmation of Thomas M. Mullaney, Esq. in support of a motion, annexed was an investigator's report, which stated that an investigation of New York, Kings and Westchester County court records revealed that: Couri has 157 separately indexed cases to which he is a party, in the vast majority of which he is a plaintiff pro-se; that Couri has a long history of making fantastic, unsubstantiated allegations of horrible wrongdoings against his adversaries; that Couri has made a habit of suing opposing counsel; and that he has left behind him a trail of twenty years worth of landlord and tenant disputes, spanning approximately eight different cases. The New York Times reported (above) that, "A reporter's search of a legal database turned up nearly 150 cases in which Mr. Couri was named as a party most often as a plaintiff since 1972." Pavia's son conducted an independent investigation and unearthed over 80 such cases by Couri.
Couri's papers in this case were filled with absurd statements about Pavia, a respected member of the Bar in this State for over 50 years and a senior partner of the highly regarded international law firm of Pavia and Harcourt. This firm urged the Court to keep in mind that Couri plead guilty in Federal Court to fraud. As set forth in the case of Drobbin v. Nicolet Instrument Corp. et al., 631 F.supp 860, 868, United States District Judge Haight described Couri, as follows:
"Couri has a checkered past. He has twice pleaded guilty in this Court to charges of fraud. One charge involved securities fraud. The other involved fraudulent statements made to a bank in connection with an art gallery Couri controlled. Couri is the subject of an injunction against securities laws violations obtained by the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Moreover, the case was challenging because there was no precedent for a nuisance case based on the grounds present here. At the outset of this litigation Couri was represented by the highly regarded large firm. A partner of such firm advised us that there was no way Couri would be evicted on the grounds complained of.. no one ever had.
Ultimately, however, this office prevailed in all decisions included below, and Pavia won the case. After the trial of the matter, a judgment for possession of the apartment and a money judgment for back rent were ultimately awarded against Couri.