River House set to appeal condo ruling

July 11, 2009
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Bridgewater Condos LC plans to appeal a decision made weeks ago by 17th Circuit Court Judge Donald Johnston, who dismissed lawsuits filed by the firm against 15 potential condo buyers in River House, an $80 million luxury high-rise at 335 Bridge St. NW.

Developer Robert Grooters owns Bridgewater Condos and the River House.

“We are in the process of filing the appeal. However, an appeal cannot be filed until the judgment is entered. We’re waiting on the judgment to be entered before anything moves forward,” said Kristen Myers-Chatman, director of marketing for River House.

The firm has 21 days to file its appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals once the judgment is entered, which happens when a ruling judge signs an order. That action can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 15 days — or even longer, depending on whether both parties agree to the language in an order.

Kuiper Orlebeke PC, which represented 11 of the 15 buyers, filed an order July 1. But Jack Hoffman, a partner in the firm, said attorneys for Bridgewater Condos were objecting to the language contained in the order and both sides would be getting together soon to iron out the differences.

Hoffman said when an agreement on the wording is reached, the order will then go to Johnston for his signature. When the judge signs it, Bridgewater Condos will have 21 days to file an appeal.

“There is no easy way to tell when an order is going to be signed,” said Hoffman.

Johnston granted the buyers a summary disposition June 22 because the purchase agreement that buyers signed didn’t contain the address of the development’s escrow agent. Only the name was present, and state law requires both.

Gary Schenk, a partner in Schenk, Boncher & Rypma PC and lead attorney for Bridgewater Condos, argued that the name and address of the escrow agent was contained in the disclosure statement and that document was part of the purchase package every buyer received. Johnston, though, explained that a disclosure statement doesn’t qualify as an agreement.

The judge’s decision means the buyers have their deposits refunded and don’t have to close on the purchases, which could cost Bridgewater Condos up to $7 million in sales revenue and refunds. The company sued 36 potential buyers earlier this year for not following through on their commitments to purchase a unit.

Myers-Chatman said Schenk, Boncher & Rypma is likely to handle an appeal for Bridgewater Condos.

Since the ruling, Myers-Chatman said two more condos have been sold, bringing the total to 68. She said the judge’s decision hasn’t dampened their spirits or the sales effort at River House.

“We work for Bob Grooters, who is a very positive person who believes that everything always has a silver lining. As he always says, ‘You dig in, work it out and make it a win-win,’” she said. “That’s what we’re all trying to do. Just stay positive and move forward.”

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