Owner of Defunct Hot Dog Joint Scores Legal Fees in Lawsuit Against Strip Mall Landlord

Pauly’s Famous Franks ‘n Fries tanked just a year into its 10-year lease at The Plant shopping center because of the landlord’s shady shenanigans. Now, Paul Orozco, the eponymous owner of the defunct fast-food joint, is entitled to some of the $700,000 in attorney fees he spent suing Vornado, the company that owned the retail complex at San Jose’s Monterey Road and Curtner Avenue.

The recent appeals court ruling culminates years of litigation between Orozco—who also owns the popular burrito spot Iguana’s—and Vornado Realty Trust, which owned The Plant before selling it off to Cole Real Estate Investments for a cool $205 million in 2013.

In his original suit, Orozco accused Vornado leasing manager Amber Weltner of fraud for lying to him to close the deal and earn several thousand dollars in commission.

Orozco asked multiple times whether any other businesses at the center would directly compete with his new restaurant’s focus: gourmet hot dogs. Weltner repeatedly told him that she couldn’t disclose what other tenants were moving in because of Vornado’s policy against discussing ongoing negotiations.

In fact, no such policy existed.

Orozco took Weltner at her word and opened Pauly’s in October 2012. Sales were great and trended up right until a new hot dog joint moved in six months later. Al’s Beef opened just a couple doors down from Pauly’s, marking the beginning of the end for Orozco’s new franchise.

Over the subsequent weeks, Pauly’s sales plummeted by 35 percent. About six months after Al’s entrance to the block, Pauly’s closed for good.

A jury found Vornado liable for fraud, intentional misrepresentation and $677,000 in lost profits. Now, six years after this whole saga started, Orozco will get at least some of his money back for legal fees too.

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

11 Comments

  1. Good for Paul Orozco, congrats, man.

    But what the heck was Vornado doing in San Jose? They own a bunch of properties in NYC, and one in SF and another in Chicago. Glad to see the out-of-towners outta here. And double so because now they gotta pay up for their employee’s lack of morals (she was probably from NYC herself, no?).

    BTW, I don’t go to The Plant more than I have to. They used to build nuclear plant parts there, and I know fairly certainly that they would have radioactive materials there, too. Wouldn’t be surprised if the ground there is contaminated with uranium, plutonium or other nuclear fuel.

    • Thanks for your congrats SCC RESIDENT! I was surprised to see this story (The Fly always gets the scoop) as the Appeals Court ruling was just recently published. This ruling set legal precedent and is now case law and legal authority that can help others establish their legal position. It was a very long battle and I will take this victory in honor of all the small guys who battle against the big corporate fat cats. And yes, the jury found Amber Weltner to be lacking in credibility and was impeached on the stand. Vornado (NYSE VNO) is a 30 billion dollar market cap real estate behemoth out of New York. I am truly thankful and indebted the jurors who returned a verdict in my favor and found Vornado (Amber Weltner) committed FRAUD and CONCEALMENT. To boot, VNO appealed the verdict and dragged the case on for another three years. The Sixth District Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the jury verdict in my favor and against Vornado and also reversed the lower court Judge Carrie Zapeda who erred in her ruling denying me attorneys fees. I feel thankful and blessed! In this case justice was served, better late than never!

      Btw- My recollection is that The Plant has some sort of ground contamination and as a result, all of the construction there requires that a specialized sealed vapor barrier be installed between the ground and the cement. I know this because I had to hire a specialized contractor from Los Angeles to do the construction work for me.

      Pauly

      • > Orozco asked multiple times whether any other businesses at the center would directly compete with his new restaurant’s focus: gourmet hot dogs. Weltner repeatedly told him that she couldn’t disclose what other tenants were moving in because of Vornado’s policy against discussing ongoing negotiations.

        > In fact, no such policy existed.

        Pauly:

        The Fly’a account seems to me to be a bit sketchy as to what “wrongdoing” you are claiming on the part of the giant fat cat corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

        Weltner apparently did not provide false information related to competing businesses; she did not disclose.

        “Providing false information” and “not disclosing” are two different things.

        Your claim is that Welter stated there was a Vornado policy “against discussing ongoing negotiations”. Such a policy, if it existed, would seem to me to be reasonable and have a valid business purpose.

        The question in my mind is: “what is a policy and who decides a policy, and when do you know that a policy has been established”.

        A “policy” is at a minimum just a good idea for doing a business procedure based on what worked in the past. A “policy” doesn’t have to be engraved in stone tablets by corporate demigods at the mountain top. I would think that a trusted, competent employee could establish local policies for his or her domain of responsibility, and a corporation could legitimately use that policy as a model policy for broader application.

        So, I’m saying that based on the facts presented in The Fly’s account, I don’t accept the validity of your claim and I would have denied it.

        It looks to my like you were relying on the landlord to do your business and competitive analysis. That’s not his job, it’s your job.

        And if you’re claiming that the landlord’s agent failed to provide competitive information that would have been useful to you, that’s not “fraud and misrepresentation”; that’s confidentiality and privacy.

        If the information that the landlord might have provided changed or turned out to be inaccurate, would the landlord be liable for that?

        I see this as mainly “litigation roulette”, and you’re lucky number came up.

        • SJOUTSIDEKNOWITALL: I’m not debating anything with you. The only thing “sketchy” here is your miss-characterization based on a few paragraphs.12 Jurors listened to many depositions, over 10k documents gathered as evidence, over a 4 week trial with many witnesses and many legal experts, and the qualified jurors deliberated for 3 days and came to the conclusion and verdict of Fraud and Concealment. Then a 3 judge panel in 6th District Court of Appeal have their own 43 page opinion and then YOU read a blurb and want to play Monday morning quarterback? Please. Get a life. My Lord. “based on the facts presented in The Fly’s account, I don’t accept the validity of your claim and I would have denied it.”
          I am not making any claims and you certainly are in no position to grant or deny anything. If you are so smart, look up (google) the case and read it for yourself… then you MIGHT have an educated opinion. I fought in court for almost 7 years and don’t need your “legal analysis”. Battling an army of high priced attorneys for years and you say my “lucky number came up”? Jeez, some people just can’t stand it when someone decent fights the good fight and has a well deserved win. I think they call these type of people “haters”.

          Pauly

          • Pauly, don’t feed the trolls. Bubble and a few others here do just that, they twist information, do a lot of ‘whatabouts” and feel smug. I have a sense that they are being paid by those high priced NY lawyers, so you gotta ignore them.

            So now back to you… you had to do your own construction on that Plant site? Holy cats, isn’t that what the property owner should have been doing? Well, in any event, it’s probably better you’re outta there. And if you’re involved at all with burritozillas, I think I’ll go check that out.

            Again, congratulations, a win like yours isn’t easy and they’re not quick, so from the rest of us, the people, thanks for fighting the good fight.

      • Mr. Orozco, Have been a fan of yours for years, and am thrilled for you and this victory. I’m now headed to Iguanas to celebrate with a Super Iguana! Onward and upwards! ;)
        –John

        • Dear MR RAGSDALE: Thank you so much! It is because of wonderful supportive folks like you that my business and family have flourished over the last two decades of hard work. I truly appreciate you! God bless.

          Pauly

        • > . I’m now headed to Iguanas to celebrate with a Super Iguana!

          I’m going to Iguanas and order a Super Burrito.

          Then I’m going to send it back because you didn’t disclose that there was another burrito joint in the same area.

  2. > Pauly, don’t feed the trolls. . . . I have a sense that they are being paid by those high priced NY lawyers,

    SCCRezzy:

    Maybe you can tell me what I’m doing wrong.

    I’ve been trolling against global warming for years and I have yet to see a check in my mailbox from the giant oil corporations. They really haven’t shown the least bit of appreciation for all that I’ve done for them.

    Ditto for the high priced NY lawyers. I have yet to see a dime from the tightwads.

    “Progressives”, on the other hand, seem to be rolling in cash from George Soros, Tom Steyer, and every other left-wing plutocrat on the planet.

    What’s your secret?

    I have my price. I’m willing to be a slut for Google just like the San Jose political aristocracy. Google just needs to put some dollars in my supper dish.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-07-15/peter-thiel-slams-treasonous-google-choosing-china-over-us-military

    If San Jose’s political leaders are willing to be stooges of Google, and Google is eager to be useful to China, does that mean that China is really our REAL government?

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