The Pines Mall is in danger of foreclosure following a lawsuit filed by Carrington Electric Company, Inc. against owners James Vu, John Vu and Thuythien (Judy) Vu, DBA Pines Mall, according to court documents obtained by the Pine Bluff Commercial.
The lawsuit alleges that work performed by Carrington Electric at the mall was never paid for by the owners.
The lawsuit was first heard on Sept. 25, 2018, with Carrington Electric President Ed Carrington and his attorneys appearing before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt.
None of the representatives from the Pines Mall appeared for the hearing, and the owners also would not comment on the lawsuit when contacted by The Commercial for this article.
Attorney John Talbot represented Carrington Electric in the proceedings and confirmed the foreclosure decree and lien placed against the mall.
“It wouldn’t necessarily be shut down, but the decree gave her 10 days to pay the amount awarded, then if she does not do that it, appoints a clerk of the court commissioner to hold a foreclosure sale and sell the property,” Talbot said.
“After the decree was ordered, I mailed a copy to Mrs. Vu and have not heard anything since then, nor have we attempted at this point to schedule the foreclosure sale with the clerk. We could do that because it has been more than 10 days now, so it could happen at any point. Our preference would be for her to pay the amount owed and be done with this. If that doesn’t occur (foreclosure) is our remedy.”
The balance owed to Carrington Electric on July 25, 2016, was for $18,759.62 for parking lot lighting installation and repair work at the mall, pursuant to a contract with management, court documents show.
No payments were made to Carrington Electric by mall management, who defaulted on their payment obligations, according to court documents.
A pre-judgment interest rate of 6 percent per year was added for a total of $21,470.12. An additional $7,318.84 has also been awarded to Carrington Electric for attorney’s fees and other costs and expenses, which holds a 10 percent interest rate per year.
Additionally, Carrington Electric was awarded a foreclosure decree for the mall, which is located at 2901 Pines Mall Drive. A lien has also been imposed against the property, along with the foreclosure decree.
Court documents show that Thuythein Vu was served a summons and complaint on Aug. 3, 2018, but filed an untimely answer to the complaint. Carrington Electric then filed a motion to strike her answer on Sept. 28, 2018. James and John Vu were then served with a complaint via a warning order. Neither James nor John answered the complaint, and both were found in default.
The foreclosure decree and lien awarded to Carrington Electric are not the only liens currently held against the mall property. There are 10 additional liens with a total amount of $24.257.42 owed by the Pines Mall, with the first lien being issued on June 30, 2017. The most recent one was filed on Jan. 15, 2019.
Additionally, Walmart Stores, Inc. has a pending lawsuit against the Pines Mall for breach of contract due to the “Walmart Supplemental Agreement.”
Under the agreement, Walmart is obligated to pay an annual amount equal to the floor area of the former Walmart store building, multiplied by $1.25, and the owners of the mall are required to keep all portions of the mall store buildings leased and operating, the common areas of the mall, the parking lots, and other facilities in a good state of repair and in a clean and orderly condition.
The lawsuit alleges that the mall owners have violated their obligations under the Operating Agreement and the Walmart Supplement agreement by failing to keep the parking lot and other areas of the property in a good state of repair and orderly condition.
The lawsuit alleges the parking area, landscaping and sidewalks are being overrun with weeds, are full of garbage, debris and potholes, and are otherwise in a general state of disrepair.
The lawsuit also alleges that the owners of the mall have allowed the common areas of the Pines Mall to deteriorate below standards of the contract.
Additionally, the lawsuit states that approximately one-third of an area in the Pines Mall is vacant behind a wall that is isolating the former Walmart store from the remainder of the mall.
The lawsuit alleges that the owners are making no efforts to lease any of the areas behind the wall and have allowed numerous abandoned stores to decay in the operating area of the facility.
The lawsuit alleges that the mall owners have failed to “continually operate the shopping center in a manner consistent with the best standards of a mall.”
The lawsuit also alleges the mall owners “have shown little interest in operating a well-functioning mall. It also notes the current Pines Mall website is “virtually inoperative and does not include a store directory.”
The lawsuit states “the defendants have breached the terms and essential purpose of the Operating Agreement and Walmart Supplement, and therefore Walmart is no longer responsible for the underlying obligations in the contracts including, but not limited to payments set forth by the Walmart Supplement.
Additionally, the lawsuit is asking to be awarded attorney fees and costs incurred in the prosecution of the action against the Pines Mall.
The mall opened in 1985 to much fanfare and was for at least a decade or more one of the area's premier shopping centers. Years of neglect and ownership turnover have created a shell inside. News broke Friday afternoon that one of the last remaining anchors, J.C. Penney, is closing in July. Sears left in 2016.