Lakin firm plans to stay put despite eviction notice

Steve Korris Mar. 27, 2007, 10:20am

The Lakin firm in Wood River

Brad Lakin

BP America, landlord of the Lakin Law Firm, intends to evict the firm from its office in Wood River in about 90 days.

The Lakin firm intends to stay.

The firm filed a complaint in Madison County circuit court March 21, seeking to extend its lease at 301 Evans Avenue for five years.

For the Lakin firm, "of counsel" attorney Charles Chapman wrote that, "Plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury if this Court does not enter an injunction prohibiting Defendant from taking any actions to evict Plaintiff from the Leased Premises on or after June 30."

The property once served as office and warehouse for a refinery, and it looks more like an industrial plant than headquarters of a famous law firm.

Petrochemical pipes point toward the building. Docking structures stand by it. Three pairs of railroad tracks run by it.

At a bend in Evans Avenue, a broad asphalt apron leads to an entrance that the Lakin firm shares with oil company Atlantic Richfield.

According to Chapman's complaint, law firm founder Tom Lakin signed a 10-year lease with Amoco Petroleum Additives Company in 1996.

Amoco Petroleum Additives did not own the property, but leased it from Amoco Oil Company.

The lease gave Lakin 29,000 square feet of warehouse space and 22,000 square feet of office space, for a total of 51,000 square feet.

Rent started at $105,000 a year, a bargain rate at $2.06 per square foot.

The lease provided annual consumer price adjustments.

It gave the Lakin firm options for two five year extensions.

The lease began to run July 1, 1997. At some point, it passed to Amoco Remediation Management Services Corporation.

According to Chapman, the firm sent an option notice to Amoco Oil in Wood River in March 2006, and Amoco Oil forwarded it to Elizabeth Yordanoff, BP America managing attorney in Warrenville, Illinois.

He wrote, "Defendant did not respond to the option notice until Feb. 9, 2007, when defendant advised plaintiff, via a telephone call, that defendant was not interested in a long term lease and will not consent to the option…"

He wrote that on Feb. 23, Yordanoff advised the firm that BP America would not extend the lease because it planned to sell the property.

He wrote that Yordanoff offered to extend the lease to Dec. 31.

Chapman asked for declaratory judgment extending the lease to 2012. He wrote, "Plaintiff has complied with all prerequisites to exercise the option."

He wrote, "…the parties reasonably expected that plaintiff would exercise the option and that defendant would consent to the option."

He wrote that by delaying a response to the option notice for a year, BP America waived a provision conditioning the option on its consent.

Chapman also claimed breach of contract.

He wrote, "Plaintiff has sustained damages and will sustain damages if it is forced to move out of the premises at issue before June 30, 2012."

Chapman filed the suit on the miscellaneous remedies docket. Unelected associate judges hear "MR" cases.

If BP America dislodges the Lakin firm, Chapman will have to leave too.

He practices in the Lakin building, not as a member of the firm but as Charles W. Chapman, Chartered.

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