Richard Segal, left, and Jamie L. Zuckerman, right, of Segal Zuckerman. Courtesy photos
A lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County has accused Marriott International of knowingly concealing the use of an odious and potentially harmful building material in one of its properties.
Montreal businessman Andreas Diamantopoulous is accusing Marriott of negligence and fraud over its addressing of an "unnatural smell" in his residence in the company's St. Regis Bal Harbor Resort. Diamantopoulous — who goes by Andre Diamond — claimed to have continually reached out to St. Regis management over the presence of "a highly nauseating, repulsive, and repugnant odor" pervading his property. Diamond purchased a two-bedroom penthouse at the resort for $2,525,000 in 2013.
"Diamond complained multiple times about the chemical stench and persistent odor but was continuously shuffled along by management, engineers, and staff at the St. Regis Property all of whom outright denied any issue existed," the complaint said.
The filing maintained the smell was so strong that "even when sleeping with his sliding glass doors open, Diamond would wake up in the morning with eye irritation and burns, headaches, respiratory difficulty, and diminished cognitive capabilities."
Read the complaint: falcon-embed src="embed_1"
Diamond didn't learn the source of his discomfort until November 2017, when a contractor inspecting his residence identified the problem in short order.
"The general contractor recognized the odor instantaneously and explained that the distinct odor Diamond complained of was the same exact odor that was remediated in many other units on the St. Regis Property several years back," the suit said. Diamond was told the problematic scent stemmed from chemicals off-gassing from the vinyl substance used to muffle the sound of water running through the St. Regis' pipes.
Although the origin of the issue had been identified, Diamond alleges it has yet to be corrected one year onward. According to Miami litigator Richard Segal, the ongoing discomfort Diamond has experienced at the St. Regis is at odds with the considerable sums of money he's put into the property.
"Everyone who buys into St. Regis buys into it for the flagship service that is normally associated with that brand," he said. Segal, who is representing Diamond alongside his Segal Zuckerman partner Jamie Zuckerman, said his client has been "severely disappointed" with the treatment he's received given the severity of the matter.
"In light of the building and the brand, this issue should have been taken care of much more expeditiously than it has," he continued.
Marriott is named as a defendant in the complaint alongside Seldar, a Florida-based and real estate-oriented subsidiary of the Al Faisal Holding Company in Qatar; the international hotel chain is responsible for the active management of the St. Regis, while Seldar serves as the property's owners.
Diamond's complaint includes several charges of negligence and fraud in addition to purporting a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
St. Regis at 9701 Collins Ave. Photo by J. Albert Diaz/ALM
"Acknowledging and admitting that Diamond’s Penthouse Condominium was contaminated posed a problem for Marriott because Marriott wanted to preserve the purported ultra-luxury reputation associated with the St. Regis brand and did not want the public to know of the pervasive and continued off-gassing problem that plagued the St. Regis Property," the filing said. "The actions of Marriott were intentional, willful, wanton, malicious and performed with a reckless disregard for Diamond’s property, health, well-being, and rights."
Segal said even if the matter were to be corrected, Diamond would still be reluctant to reenter his dormant penthouse.
"Who would want to go back into their penthouse, even if it was fixed, not knowing how pervasive the off-gassing was?," he asked. "Now that Diamond is starting to better understand the facts, he wants to know exactly what was going on, the chemicals he was breathing in, and the odors he was exposed to."
Zuckerman said no counsel has entered an appearance on behalf of either defendant as of yet.
A Marriott representative told the Daily Business Review the company does not comment on pending litigation. The hotel conglomerate has recently come under scrutiny for a data breach that may have exposed the personal information of as many as 500 million customers.
A request for comment from Seldar's parent company, the Al Faisal Holding Company, was not returned by press time.
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