Sarasota developer loses lawsuit to partner

Jury finds Githler Development breached deal with partner, must pay $54,000 in damages.
By: 
Jul. 13, 2018

Lawsuits aren’t uncommon in commercial real estate, but rare is the case where one partner sues another to evict the latter from the building they jointly own.

That’s what happened, however, in the Circuit Court covering Sarasota County earlier this year, when New York-based EDM Sarasota LLC, an entity formed by Jonathan Mitchell and Howard Brumer, sued One Thousand-Boulevard LLC, a group controlled by Githler Development and Charles Githler III.

EDM and One Thousand had teamed up in March 2017 to acquire the 11-story Northern Trust Building in downtown Sarasota, for $17 million. As part of the deal, each agreed not to occupy the building under a Tenants in Common pact mandated by the transaction’s mortgage lender unless a written lease was in place involving market rent.

But in early January, Githler moved its offices to about 3,600 square feet in the building’s second floor, vacant space that tenant Northern Trust has a right of first refusal on, after sending EDM an email.

When Githler apparently refused EDM’s “demand” that it leave the 1515 Ringling Blvd. space, EDM sued, according to court documents.

In May, a jury sided with EDM and stated that Githler should be evicted from the 110,000-square-foot building. It also stipulated that Githler had to pay $54,660 in damages to the partnership, equal to double the rent that could have been earned from the space for the months occupied.

Githler left the same month, but then objected to having to pay rent for the final two weeks in May — when it was no longer a tenant in Northern Trust.

Last month, a judge ruled in favor of EDM again, upholding the jury’s decision, according to court records.

“It was a bit of an unusual circumstance,” says Kevin Bruning, a Sarasota attorney who represented EDM. “It’s not how you want negotiations to go, certainly among partners. Both sides were very professional towards each other in court, but I think it’s safe to say that what’s happened has caused their relationship to deteriorate somewhat.”

Githler, for his part, has moved his company’s offices to 741 S. Orange Ave. in Sarasota. He declined to comment on the lawsuit or the verdict.

“We did have a dispute, and we’re working to resolve it,” Githler says. “I really can’t comment on the litigation.”