Fifth Circuit Affirms Trial Verdict for Fishman Haygood Client Sonder USA

On October 4, 2023, U.S. Fifth Circuit Judges Edith Brown Clement, Catharina Haynes, and Andrew S. Oldham affirmed a March 2022 jury decision in favor of firm client Sonder USA, which held 635 N. Scott, L.L.C. liable for damages related to the failure to maintain rental units. Click here for the full opinion.

In late 2017, Sonder, a leasing company specializing in renting out entire buildings, entered into an agreement for 25 Mid-City apartments with 635 N. Scott, a company controlled by New Orleans area landlord Joshua Bruno. As is standard in many lease provisions, repair and maintenance obligations were to be the responsibility of the lessor, in this case 635 N. Scott.

As early as February 2018, Sonder began reporting tenant complaints of water intrusion in several of the units to Mr. Bruno and his team. Then came reports of mold, roaches, appliance breakages, and a chemical spill in which one guest slipped and fell. By June of that year, Mr. Bruno not only began blaming Sonder—and the company’s tenants—for the issues but also minimized the extent of these problems. Sonder filed a lawsuit seeking termination of its leases and recovery of lost profits because many of the units became uninhabitable.

On March 10, 2022, a jury found that 635 N. Scott breached leases on all 25 units and owed Sonder more than $223,000. Read more about the four-day trial in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana here.

The Fishman Haygood trial team was led by Kerry Miller, Rebekka Veith, Danielle Teutonico, and Monica Bergeron. Veith also served as the lead appellate lawyer.

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