Doctor sues twin sister, also doctor, over lease

LISBON – An East Palestine doctor sued her twin sister, also a doctor, this week in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court after her sister reportedly unfairly evicted her from her medical office space in 2011.

Venus Wittenauer, South Walnut Street, filed a lawuit against her sister, Valerie Rockenberger and her husband, Mark Rockenberger, both of North Market Street.

Wittenauer is claiming in August of 2000, she leased space for 20 years from the defendants with a term beginning Aug. 15, 2000 and ending Aug. 14, 2020. The lease was recorded in the county recorder’s office in February 2001. The lease was for $60,000 total broken into a monthly rent of $250, which was paid faithfully, the lawsuit said.

In 2003, the defendants reportedly sought to improve the property, building additional structures attached to the office. The parties agreed Wittenauer would contribute $50,000 toward the improvements up front, while the Rockenbergers would credit the money toward the original lease, forgiving 200 monthly payments of $250 monthly for the next 16.6 years.

However, the lawsuit contends that on Nov. 18, 2011 Rockenberger physically evicted her sister from the office and prevented her from re-entering. There was no written or verbal notice of the eviction or reason given. Wittenauer further contends since that date she has been unable to get her personal property and patient records.

Wittenauer claims the eviction forced her to relocate her practice, costing her additional money for the purchase of equipment and leasing fees.

Additionally, she claims the Rockenbergers failed to pay for utilities as was written in the lease, such as phone services and natural gas. Wittenauer paid the utilities in the amount of $30,969 and was never reimbursed. She also claims she is owed the $25,000 balance on the lease credit, $445 for a computer purchased for the original office, $769 for an autoclave she purchased, $4,490 representing half the cost of a new generator for the leased property, $9,421 for her share of improvements made to the leased office and $223 for vaccines she had purchased.

She is seeking in excess of $25,000 for compensatory damages from an alleged breach of lease and interference with business relationships, along with exemplary damages in the amount of $75,000.