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Business Observer Tuesday, May 22, 2018 2 years ago

Jury orders city to pay nearly $50 million in lawsuit

The City of Sarasota is exploring options to appeal the decision.

SARASOTA — A civil jury in a 2010 case that pitted the City of Sarasota against a developer awarded $49.8 million to the developer.

The dispute, in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, involves the development of the site of the Palm Avenue parking garage and Art Ovation hotel in downtown Sarasota. 

According to a Sarasota Observer article, a sister newspaper to the Business Observer, the decision was handed down Monday. The plaintiff, Buck-Leiter Palm Avenue Development, alleged the city breached its contract when it decided not to move ahead with the developer’s plans for the city-owned site.

The Observer article says City Attorney Robert Fournier says his office plans to discuss the decision at an upcoming City Commission meeting. The city is exploring opportunities to appeal, he says.

Morgan Bentley, an attorney with the Bentley and Bruning law firm that represented the city in the suit, expressed dismay at the verdict. He says there were potential issues with the decision the city would contest, including the $49 million award, which was based on claims of lost profit from the project that was never built. 

Buck-Leiter's plans included a 453-space garage, a 77,000-square-foot hotel, 18,500 square feet of retail space and 150 condominium units.

“I do think it’s a shockingly large number, given the entire city budget is something like $200 million,” Bentley says in the Observer article. “There’s a lot left to be worked out on all of this and a long way to go." 


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