Judge Removes Park City Resort Emails From Lease Dispute

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SAM Magazine—Park City, Utah, Sept. 12, 2013—District Judge Ryan Harris has ruled that a series of emails between Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) officials and attorneys shows no evidence of an attempt to commit fraud as part of PCMR’s actions to renew its land lease, and he barred the emails from depositions that began yesterday. Nonetheless, he acknowledged it’s possible PCMR executives did attempt fraud when they backdated a letter to renew their land lease with Talisker Land Holdings.

In an unusual move, Harris reviewed the disputed emails in private, then declared that they were privileged attorney-client communications, and said they showed no evidence of attempted fraud.

PCMR’s lease expired on April 30, 2011. PCMR attorney Alan Sullivan has admitted that a letter dated April 29, 2011, which stated PCMR’s intention to extend the lease, was written on May 2, 2011, after the expiration of the lease. He termed the tardy letter an honest mistake. Talisker, however, claims it was a deliberate attempt to commit fraud.

The depositions that began yesterday are part of just one issue in the dispute. Next week, a hearing is scheduled to determine whether PCMR had the right of first refusal to lease the land when Talisker assigned its interest in the land to Vail Resorts (VR), as part of VR’s deal to lease Canyons.

A trial that could determine the validity of PCMR’s lease with Talisker—which is at the root of the PCMR-Talisker dispute—is not likely to begin until the latter half of 2014. The deadline for mediation or alternative resolution of the dispute was originally scheduled for Mar. 7, 2014, but it is expected that the inclusion of Vail Resorts in the issue, via its lease with Talisker, will extend the timeline by a number of months.