Sat, Feb

Hotel’s lawsuit still not settled

Cottonwood News

Jerome Grand Hotel operation generated strife between owners and the town of Jerome, which closed the hotel. A settlement has not been reached in the lawsuit.Attorneys for Jerome Grand Hotel and the town of Jerome have not given notice of an agreement to settle their lawsuit over the town’s decision to close the hotel in 2010 and no further court action is scheduled, according to Yavapai County Superior Court records.

The case was assigned to Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff in May, but in June the judge originally assigned to the case, Tina Ainley, made findings of fact and law and denied the hotel’s request for attorney fees.

In March, attorneys for Jerome Grand Hotel asked Ainley to order the town to pay hotel owners more than $75,000 in attorney fees and litigation costs.

The fees and costs accumulated since October, when town staff ordered the hotel to be closed as unsafe. The hotel reopened Jan. 20 after a two-day hearing at which Ainley found the town acted improperly and issued a preliminary injunction.

In her findings of fact issued on June 16, Ainley ruled the town’s decision to revoke the hotel’s certificate of occupancy cost it between $15,000 and $20,000, or an average of $2,000 per day.

“Additionally, the hotel’s reputation has suffered as a result of the closure,” Ainley wrote.

She declined to award attorneys fees pending the outcome of the case, however.

In her conclusions of law, Ainley wrote public policy required the town to reinstate the hotel’s certificate of occupancy. The hotel experienced hardship as a result of the town’s actions, she concluded.

Ainley’s findings of facts and conclusions of law are binding on the parties should they proceed to trial and could move the parties closer to settlement.

Attorneys for the town argued hotel owners are not entitled to fees or costs because their lawsuit is for declaratory judgment, a special kind of lawsuit that does not allow recovery of attorney fees, according to a 1975 Arizona Supreme Court decision.

Nevertheless, Ainley ordered the town to post a security deposit of $2,500 for payment of any costs or damages the hotel is ultimately found to have suffered.

Hotel attorney John E. Phillips billed hotel owners, Robert and Larry Altherr, between Oct. 8 and Feb. 5, for more than $53,000 in attorney fees based on 224 hours of legal work performed during the period.

The hotel also asked for nearly $23,000 in costs, including expert witness fees, filing fees, fees for transcripts, postage and copying. The hotel’s expert, Larry Litchfield, billed the Altherrs more than $15,000 for his services.{jcomments on}