Attorneys for the companies led by real estate mogul turned presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and celebrity chef José Andrés argued before a D.C. Superior Court judge Wednesday over Trump’s controversial comments about Hispanic immigrants.
The two sides in the high-profile lawsuit are squabbling over whether the remarks Trump made last summer constitute a breach of the contract between the two men’s companies under which Andrés was to open the flagship restaurant in Trump’s luxury redevelopment of the Old Post Office Pavilion. Andrés pulled out of the deal after Trump’s comments made waves.
Andrés had asked the court to issue a summary judgement — essentially a bid to cut short the legal wrangling (Trump, of course, sued; Andrés countersued). Judge Jennifer DiToro pressed each side but didn’t tip her hand, announcing that she would issue a written decision within two weeks.
Rebecca Woods, the Trump organization’s attorney, was critical of the chef’s arguments that the controversy would make it hard to secure financing, hire staff and attract customers. “Fortune-telling is not a science, and many would say it’s not an art,” Woods said. And, she suggested, such doom-and-gloom speculation about the future might be pointless.
“In an alternate universe — if he becomes president, [people might say,] ‘Hey, we’ll go,'” she said.
Brigida Benitez, who represents Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup, was similarly dismissive of the opposition’s suggestions that Andrés should have known what he was getting into, because Trump had long been outspoken — and political. “Even though they were doing business with Donald Trump, [the company] would not have expected that Donald Trump would do something to risk the venture.”
Arguments centered on the scope of the “duty of good faith and fair dealing,” a principle underpinning contract law, which DiToro had identified as the crux of the matter. Amid the dry talk of contract law, Benitez might have summed up the outsize interest in the case — neither Trump nor Andrés was in the courtroom, but it was more packed than one might expect for a typical hearing: “Save for the players, this is a plain-vanilla breach-of-contract case.”
Trump will be in Washington for a closed-door deposition in a similar lawsuit that his company filed against another high-profile restaurateur and chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, who followed Andrés’s lead and dropped his plans to open an eatery in Trump’s hotel.