SRA asks judge to toss out suit |

SRA asks judge to toss out suit

Sarah S. Chung

The Snowmass Resort Association has asked that an anti-trust lawsuitfiled against the organization by two local businessmen be tossedout of court before it ever gets to trial.The SRA is pinning its hopes on the timing of the suit, thoughSRA officials predict they would prevail in a test of the case’smerits.In its motion to dismiss, the SRA maintains that regardless ofthe content of the suit, the legal window to take action on thematter had already closed by the time Butch’s Lobster Bar ownerButch Darden and Zoom Stemple of Zoom’s Saloon filed the lawsuitlast September.”We believe the statute of limitations had run its course on theissue,” said SRA President Terry Hunt. “Our position is that wedon’t believe their case is valid, but we’re anxious to avoidexpensive litigation and would rather not spend thousands of dollarsjust to prove a point.” The suit, filed over the SRA’s exclusive catering contract witha group of restaurants known as Group 11, missed its filing deadlineand should be dismissed, the SRA contends.The attorney representing Darden and Stemple has filed a responserefuting the SRA’s timeline and position on when the legal clockstarted ticking.The crux of Darden and Stemple’s lawsuit is their claim that Group11 functions as a monopoly in its catering arrangements with theSRA.When the SRA/Group 11 contract was first drawn up, all elevenexisting restaurants at the resort participated. Now there aremore than 20 restaurants in Snowmass Village, including the remainingsix members of Group 11.Between June 1994 and September 1998, several informal and formalmeetings were held between the parties to the lawsuit.It is the content of those meetings that comprise the basis ofthe SRA’s motion to dismiss the case.According the SRA’s motion, “on or about” June 8, 1994, SRA officialsmet with a group of restaurant owners, including Darden and Stemple,to discuss Group 11. Following that meeting, a letter from the restaurant owners thankedHunt for listening to their concerns and also asked him to reconsiderallowing other restaurants to bid on “theme parties” in town thatare normally catered by Group 11.”In 1994 Group 11 no longer represents all restaurants in SnowmassVillage or even a majority,” wrote the restaurant owners in theletter, which was filed along with the SRA motion to dismiss.That June meeting and the ensuing letter started the clock forDarden and Stemple, the SRA contends. Since their lawsuit wasfiled on Sept. 25, 1998, the document missed the four-year statuteof limitations for anti-trust claims by more than three months.But Darden and Stemple argue the statute of limitations didn’tapply until Sept. 27, 1996, when the plaintiffs were able to seea copy of the SRA/Group 11 contract.According their filed response to the SRA motion, “the substanceof the meetings occurring in June and August of 1994 were absolutelynot the same as the substance of the claims made by Butch andZoom in this case … .”In short, a review of the contract and other SRA documents wasabsolutely essential to Butch and Zoom’s knowledge of their causeof action; without this information, Butch and Zoom had no factsto support any subject claims.”According to Darden, requests made to the SRA to see the contractwere rebuffed until his current attorney, Cindy Tester, was hired.”The reason we hired a lawyer was that [the SRA/Group 11 arrangement]didn’t seem right but I didn’t know for sure, and she [Tester]told me that without seeing the documents, she couldn’t tell,”Darden said. “We had a legitimate right to see those documentsbut it’s so typical that we didn’t see anything until we hiredCindy. The only thing the SRA understands is a lawyer.”

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