Salvage company sues to gain access to leased property destroyed in fire

Kelly Holleran Oct. 13, 2011, 10:30am


A Madison County business claims it should be permitted on the grounds of a building it leased that was destroyed in a fire.

Max B. Mullins Salvage filed a lawsuit Oct. 4 in Madison County Circuit Court against Alton Steel.

In the complaint, Max B. Mullins Salvage alleges it agreed to rent property on Cut Street in Alton from Alton Steel at $1 per month for the first two years. Following that, the salvage company agreed to pay utilities, fees, assessments and taxes on the property for years three, four and five, according to the complaint.

At the time of the initial lease agreement, the building was "in a deteriorated condition." Max B. Mullins Salvage agreed to perform upgrades on the property to transform it into "a safe and attractive condition," the suit states.

Max B. Mullins Salvage claims it did perform the agreed-upon repair work. When its initial five-year lease expired, Max B. Mullins Salvage agreed to pay $4,000 per month, plus rent equal to 25 percent of its income, the complaint says.

However, on Dec. 29, 2009, during the period of the renewal, the building burned to the ground, according to the complaint.

Since the fire, Max B. Mullins Salvage has repeatedly requested the ability to demolish the building's remains, to construct a new metal frame on the existing premises, to resume its business operations and to compensate Alton Steel for any diminution in the value of the property, the suit states. It has even provided Alton Steel with a bid for the construction of a facility to replace the building, the complaint says.

Alton Steel, though, refuses to allow Max B. Mullins Salvage access to the burned building, saying it does not want to have the building demolished. In addition, it says Max B. Mullins should construct the same rundown building that was at the property before it occupied the premises.

Alton Steel claims Max B. Mullins Salvage owes it $17,733 in taxes from September 2003 through December 2009 and $10,400 in utility payments, according to the complaint. Max B. Mullins Salvage, however, claims it does not owe Alton Steel any money and that it is wrongfully being denied access to the property.

"Defendant has no right to exclude Plaintiff from its right to possession of the Leased Premises," the suit states. "Defendant's refusal to permit Plaintiff access to the Leased Premises constitutes an unlawful trespass."

In its complaint, Max B. Mullins Salvage seeks a judgment of more than $50,000, lost profits of more than $50,000, actual damages of more than $100,000 and punitive damages of more than $50,000, plus attorney's fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Mark C. Goldenberg, Thomas P. Rosenfeld and Kevin P. Green of Goldenberg, Heller, Antognoli and Rowland in Edwardsville will be representing it.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-1011.

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