Judge says law firm Crowell’s $30 million lawsuit over pandemic rent can go forward

June 28 (Reuters) – Law firm Crowell & Moring’s lawsuit against its Washington, DC, landlord to recover $30 million in rent refunds due to pandemic disruptions can proceed, a District of Columbia Superior Court judge said Wednesday.

Associate Judge Donald Walker Tunnage at a hearing denied The TREA 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue Trust’s bid to dismiss the case.

Washington-founded Crowell sued TREA Trust in March, arguing that local government orders restricted the law firm’s access to its headquarters from March 2020 through May 2021.

The firm said its lease contained a provision for rent abatement in the event of a “material interference” inhibiting its use of the office.

The landlord moved to dismiss the case, arguing there was no provision in Crowell’s lease, which was first signed in 1985 and later amended more than a dozen times, justifying the firm’s claim that it was entitled to rent abatement.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the judge and lawyers for Crowell and the TREA Trust discussed how to interpret lease agreement terms such as “access” to the building and “essential” services.

“I think this was not an easy case; if it were, we wouldn’t be here,” Tunnage said.

The judge said Crowell’s accusations are sufficient for the case to proceed, and the matter ultimately comes down to a factual dispute between the law firm and landlord, which can be addressed at a later stage.

A Crowell spokesperson declined to comment. A lawyer and a representative for TREA Trust did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Crowell said earlier this month that it will move its 675 lawyers and staff in Washington to a new building by July 2026, when its current lease at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave expires. The law firm will downsize its space by square footage and serve as the anchor tenant of a building at 600 Fifth St. that is being redeveloped.

The case is Crowell & Moring v. The TREA 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue Trust, District of Columbia Superior Court, No. 2023-CAB-001531

For Crowell: Keith Harrison, Toni Michelle Jackson and Gregory Call of Crowell & Moring

For TREA Trust: Rebecca Woods and Renee Appel of Seyfarth Shaw

Read more:

Law firm Crowell to move into new DC offices amid rent dispute

Law firm Crowell sues to recover $30 mln in COVID-era rent

Crowell’s DC landlord fights firm’s $30 million COVID rent-refund suit

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Sara Merken

Thomson Reuters

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at [email protected]

You May Also Like

More From Author