Wells Fargo Bank filed a lawsuit Thursday against Praveen Khurana and his limited liability company Top Restaurant Investment for alleged damage suffered during and after the December 2019 fire that destroyed the Emperor of India King Thai restaurant.
The action adds to the legal woes of Khurana, who has also been charged with 22 zoning code violations over his alleged failure to clean up burnt down properties at 858 and 854 Main St., which adjoin the downtown branch. San Francisco-based San Bank City of Lewiston. Its zoning lawsuit has been twice delayed due to pandemic restrictions, but it is now scheduled for February.
The property is also the subject of remediation action by the Town of Lewiston, which faces increasing pressure to remove the public safety hazard the burnt structure presents to the public. City manager Alan Nygaard said his staff had outlined work to be done on the site so the city can apply for bids for the project as early as next week.
Once a contractor is hired, Nygaard said the city has the legal authority under Idaho law to go to private Khurana property to remove nuisance to public safety. This includes filling the basement to prevent people from falling, he said.
Khurana himself initiated legal action earlier this week, filing a lawsuit against Auto-Owners Insurance of Lansing, Michigan, over its decision not to pay Khurana’s claim after the fire. The Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office has classified the cause of the blaze as “undetermined” after a year-long investigation that was delayed by the pandemic. The insurance company did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The Wells Fargo lawsuit seeks specific damages of $ 17,134.45 for the smoke and water that entered the building at the time of the fire. He also claims that the defendant violated by allowing fire, smoke, water and other contaminants to enter Wells Fargo property. This section of the lawsuit seeks damages which will be determined at trial.
“The defendants, by poorly maintaining the building, failing to install fire safety mechanisms and fail to adhere to required codes, have caused significant damage to Wells Fargo,” said the lawsuit.
Lewiston Town Building Official John Smith said Khurana was hit with a further misdemeanor zoning code violation last month after allegedly attempting to sporadically clean up the property after the town issued a stop work order when its reduction efforts were deemed insufficient. Smith will provide city council with an update on reduction efforts at its December 20 meeting.
Smith also addressed the issue of Khurana apparently trying to live in the rubble of her old restaurant. Khurana still receives mail there, but the building is condemned and without electricity or water, so human habitation is not allowed. The neighborhood is also zoned to prohibit residential use on the first floor of any building, he added.
Lewiston police informed Khurana at least once that he was not allowed to reside there, Smith said. But as the owner, he is allowed to enter the site for other purposes.