An appellate court denied a petition by Craig Robins to prevent another leading real estate developer in Miami, Ugo Colombo, from seeking punitive damages in long-running litigation over a private jet they owned.
After Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Barbara Areces allowed Colombo to amend his lawsuit against Robins to seek punitive damages, the Third District Court of Appeal denied a petition by Robins to overturn the lower-court decision.
Dennis Richard of law firm Richard & Richard in Miami, who represents Robins, told the Daily Business Review that his client is undeterred by the appellate court ruling and plans to “defeat Colombo’s claims and recover against Colombo.”
At the center of their eight-year-old court fight is a $22 million Bombardier Challenger jet.
Colombo bought the jet in May 2007, and Robins, president and chief operating officer of Dacra Development Corp., became a co-owner of the jet later that year.
Colombo bought the jet through UC Challenger LLC, an affiliate of his CMC Group, and financed the purchase with an $18.5 million loan from Bank of America.
Robins then bought a 50 percent share of UC Challenger LLC through an affiliate of Dacra Development called CL36 Leasing LLC.
Robins and Colombo each assumed half of the Bank of America loan, and they each agreed to pay for half of the jet’s maintenance and operating costs, according to court filings by Colombo.
Colombo alleges that Robins refused to pay for a $200,000 trip around the world on the jet, then defaulted on his half of the Bank of America loan to force Colombo to pay all costs associated with the trip.
Colombo claims that Bank of America sued him and UC Challenger LLC in 2013 over the default on the loan and an interest-rate swap agreement.
Robins claims in a countersuit that Colombo decided not to sell the jet under a forbearance agreement with Bank of America, despite getting offers. UC Challenger LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the jet was sold during the Chapter 11 proceeding.
Robins charged Colombo in his countersuit with breaching fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty.
Colombo’s suit against Robins and CL36 Leasing LLC alleges that they breached fiduciary duties and contractual duties, aided and abetted breach of fiduciary duty, and committed tortious interference with contractual relations, among other charges.
Colombo subsequently amended his suit to seek punitive damages, which Judge Areces decided to approve.
“Robins appealed this decision but lost, and faces punitive damages in a jury trial,” two attorneys for Colombo, Kendall Coffey and Jeffrey Crockett, wrote in an email to the Daily Business Review.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman ruled last year that Robins’ Dacra Development must pay $1.5 million for Colombo’s legal fees in the case.
That ruling increased the total amount Dacra owes Colombo to $3 million, including a $1.5 million award to Colombo from a 2014 jury verdict, which was affirmed on appeal in 2016. [Daily Business Review] – Mike Seemuth