Yesterday Venable won a $36 million jury verdict in Maryland on behalf of a real estate developer whose plans to build a luxury apartment complex were allegedly ruined by some uncooperative landlords.
The case, which played out in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, pitted Venable’s client, The Penrose Group, against the Davis and Camalier families, from whom it leased land in Bethesda to build a high rise project.
Venable partner Brian Schwalb, who led the litigation team, argued that the deal began to sour once the two families decided they might be able to make more money working with a different developer. According to Schwalb, the families held back some crucial paperwork that prevented Penrose from closing on its financing – a move that landed the dispute in court. Despite a judge’s order in April 2007 requiring them to hand over the paperwork, the families still did not cooperate fully, Schwalb said. Eventually the financing collapsed, and the building permits expired. Penrose returned to court to seek damages.
At trial, Schwalb said he showed jurors a letter that one of the Camaliers sent to their Hogan & Hartson lawyers shortly after the April 2007 order. According to Schwalb, the letter read, “Do whatever you have to do to stop the bastards, we need some leverage.”
“This was a case where the defendants made a conscious business decision to break the deal with my clients,” Schwalb said.
At the trial, the families were represented by Cooter, Mangold,Deckelbaum & Karas. Name partner Dale Cooter said the firm was planning to challenge the verdict. “The proceedings that resulted in this verdict were riddled with error,” Cooter said. “The chances of this verdict withstanding the challenges that await it are zero.”