Thursday, July 21, 2011
7 News Investigations: Smelling Trouble
He made a mistake. He towed a car, he then apologized and offered to pay for the towing. Instead, the car owner told him he was a city councilman, that he was going to sue him for the towing and for an odor. What is this all about?
WSVN (WSVN) -- Quy and his sister Kimmy came to America for the reason millions of people want to be here.
Quy Nguyen, Kimmy's Nails: "To run a successful business to support our huge family."
Today they are succeeding with two Kimmy's Nail Salons off Sunset Drive in South Miami.
Quy Nguyen: "That's our goal, to live the American dream."
But they are also seeing another side of America.
Quy Nguyen: "The problem started by an honest mistake."
The problem started one morning when Quy came to work and saw a black car in the spot where the owner of a clothing store normally parks her range rover. Quy says his landlord had told him if you see a strange car in a spot reserved for a business owner call a tow truck.
Quy Nguyen: "That's why I go ahead and tow the car I did not recognize."
A couple of hours later the clothing store owner asked Quy about the tow and told him she had driven her husband's black car instead of her range rover to work.
Quy Nguyen: "I said, 'Oops I'm sorry. I didn't know that was your husband's car. Is there anything I can do?' I offered to pay the tow. I will take care of the tow and even personally take the car back for them."
The woman walked out, later her husband came into the salon.
Quy Nguyen: "And bust out two of his business cards and he said, 'Look me up to see who I am. I'm going to sue you.'"
The man was Martin Zilber, Quy says. One of the business cards was from a law firm. The second card says Martin Zilber Councilman Coconut Grove Village.
Quy Nguyen: "He said, 'I work for the City of Coconut Grove. I'm a councilman.' He said he was a commissioner."
Martin Zilber may be familiar to you. He was on the board of the Public Health Trust which ran Jackson Memorial Hospital. This year he left when that board was revamped. As for being a Coconut Grove City Councilman, he is not now and was not the day he reportedly told Quy he was a councilman. In fact, he has not served as a councilman since 2009.
But he did follow through on his promise to sue the nail salon.
Quy Nguyen: "He's suing me for the odor smell of the store that came through his store."
After the towing incident, "At Ease On Sunset" a clothing store registered to Zilber and his wife that is next to Kimmy's, sued the salon for noxious, foul and disturbing odors.
Stating: The smell makes employees and patrons nauseous, which came as a surprise to Kimmy's and one of their customers.
Customer: "Not at all. This is one of the cleanest nail places in Miami by far. But if it did smell? I wouldn't come here. It doesn't smell at all."
In the lawsuit, Zilber also sued Kimmy's for towing his car. Quote: "Without reason or consent."
Quy Nguyen: "The whole purpose I think all because of the towing that I mistakenly made that day, which I deeply regret it. I wish I didn't make that tow that day."
Zilber's attorneys would not return phone calls. I talked to Martin Zilber a couple of times, he told me he would not go on camera for the story. When I asked why he gave Quy a councilman's card, he said he didn't know he had, that it must have been an old one in his wallet that he gave out for contact information.
When I asked why he's also suing for the cost of the towing, instead of taking up Quy's offer to pay for it, he said it's not about the towing it's about the odor coming from the salon.
James Pilch, General Contractor: "Allowing the odor to travel across from ceiling to the other."
The landlord has hired a contractor to see if he could find out if odors from the salon could be going into the clothing store.
James Pilch: "There are a lot of holes in the ceiling, also in the ladies clothing store. We need to close that up to stop odors from crossing back and forth."
A year ago Quy spent $8,000 re-doing the air conditioning system when the clothing store owner first complained about an odor. Finally, the property manager scheduled a meeting between the lawyers for both sides and Zilber's contractor to see what could else could be done. The landlord says Zilber's contractor did not show up.
In the meantime, Kimmy's has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit as he just tries to get by.
Quy Nguyen: "We're just trying to run a normal business. We don't want to bother anybody. I just want this to be resolved in a peaceful way."
Maybe it's about odors from a nail salon. Maybe its about a stinking tow. Either way, it's not what Quy expected to be the American way.