Merchant seeks $2.2 million from mall

June 14, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Bel Air businessman is suing Harford Mall management, contending the company violated anti-trust laws when he was thrown out of the mall because of a flap over troll dolls.

David Hansford, owner of Balloons, Strings and Things, is seeking $2.2 million in damages in a seven-page suit filed May 29 in Harford Circuit Court.

"The plaintiff has suffered economic injury and mental and emotional anguish as a result of such malicious interference," Hansford says in the suit.

In the suit, Hansford names Linthicum-based BTR Realty Inc., the mall's owner and operator, and Wang's Gifts Inc., a shop that allegedly interfered with the businessman's contract with the mall.

The suit also names Rick Donley, the mall's general manager, and Nancy L. Brown, the mall's marketing director, as defendants.

Hansford is asking the court to issue an injunction that would permit him to lease space at the mall under the same terms of his old contract. He is asking for a jury trial, but a date has not been set for the proceedings.

The management packed up Hansford's merchandise and ordered him out of the mall April 18 -- the day before Easter -- when the businessman went to The Sun to complain that he was ordered not to sell troll dolls at his stand.

In the story, Hansford stated that the mall's order, issued April 13, violated his contract to operate a kiosk during several holiday seasons throughout the year.

Mall management argued that it has discretion to determine what temporary merchants like Hansford can sell to avoid

conflicts with permanent tenants.

Wang's Gifts, which has a permanent mall shop, set up a cart that carried the hot-selling trolls directly across from where Hansford was selling his trolls in the center of the mall.

The management added that a clause in Hansford's contract required him to conduct business "in a dignified manner." Going to the newspaper, according to the management, was not dignified.

Hansford operated a stand at the mall for 18 months, during the Valentine's Day, Easter and Mother's Day holidays. His stand was open for about one week during each holiday season.

He has operated another Balloons, Strings and Things shop in the 300 block of North Main St. in Bel Air for about two years. The shop specializes in party decorations, while the mall kiosk handled gifts.

Expecting big sales for the Easter holiday, Hansford doubled his order of trolls for the week his stand would be at the mall. He said he expected to sell at least 100 dolls.

Hansford said he avoided losses by selling his trolls to the Ellen's Hallmark in the mall for $800. He had expected, however, to make $1,600 profit from the dolls.

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