Trial bound: Hardy v. Kluge moves forward
The high-dollar development of Patricia Kluge and Willam Moses, already beset by a multi-million-dollar spec house in foreclosure, earned another unwelcome distinction Friday as a judge ruled that a realtor's $2 million lawsuit against the project can move forward.
The attorney for the Vineyard Estates development, Dave Thomas, argued February 26 in Albemarle Circuit Court that an email that estate broker Frank Hardy sent a day after a meeting in which the two sides discussed ending Hardy's exclusive listing agreements for the 24-lot development, amounted to a contract.
"We all agree that we would like to accept your offer of $25,000 together with the release of the existing contact list," Hardy wrote in the email. "Would you like to prepare a document which would terminate our agreement upon receipt of funds?"
With "nothing ambiguous" in the email, said Thomas, written words "mean what they say."
But Brock Green, attorney for Hardy, pointed out that Hardy never received the two things he requested: the $25,000 and the contact list–- a "very valuable" roster of potential buyers who expressed interest via a website (and whom Hardy might be able to represent as buyer's broker even after he'd lost his role as seller's agent).
A written contract presented by Vineyard Estates gave no timeline for making the payment and said nothing about the contact list. Such omissions, Green argued, proved that no "mutual assent" had been reached.
Vineyard Estates went ahead and signed up Sotheby's International Realty to market the million-dollar-plus parcels. Hardy's suit asks for $1.9 million–- the total commissions Hardy's firm stood to earn if all the parcels had sold at full price. To date, none have sold.
"I can't imagine, reading all these numbers, why $25,000 wouldn't have come out and been paid," said Judge Thomas H. Wood.
Announcing that he thought it reasonable that Hardy and his team would want to be reimbursed for their work and expenditures during the time they represented Vineyard Estates, Judge Wood ruled against Kluge's motion for summary judgment and set the case for trial on April 2.
"We didn't have much doubt that the judge would rule the way he did," said Hardy's attorney Green, promising to bring "many witnesses" to trial.
Co-counsel for Vineyard Estates, Ron Tweel, told reporters that the development is willing to consider settling. "We're open to all possibilities," Tweel said, "as we always are in litigation."