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Lawsuits voluntarily dismissed against Saunders

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Plaintiffs' lawyer says they'll refile

By Laura Lewis, Reporter

Plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed lawsuits against developer Mark Saunders and his affiliated companies on claims of unfinished work in four of Saunders’ developments.

An attorney representing the plaintiffs said they plan to refile the lawsuit in the near future, however.

The dismissal in North Carolina Business Court relates to lawsuits claiming delays in completion in Ocean Ridge Plantation, Ocean Isle Palms, Rivers Edge Plantation and Seawatch at Sunset Harbor.

Dismissal of 130 remaining plaintiffs in six consolidated cases presided over by Judge John Jolly is the latest in what has been a steady stream of dismissals since the cases were filed, Saunders’ spokeswoman Nita Hill said.

The lawsuits filed more than four years ago originally included more than 300 plaintiffs owning 167 lots in the four communities.

The properties, purchased at the height of the real estate market, experienced declines in value because of the economic collapse, Hill said.

“We are very gratified that these cases are finally over,” Saunders said in a news release issued Tuesday, May 27, by his Coastal Companies. “We unequivocally knew that the wild allegations by the lawyers who filed these cases were false.”

Saunders’ lawyer, Elaine Jordan, said recent court rulings may have been a factor in the plaintiffs’ decision to dismiss.

“In the last couple of years, North Carolina’s appellate courts have made crystal clear that in large real estate developments like these, the written contract between the buyer and seller is the gold standard,” Jordan said. “Because no contract was breached, the plaintiffs probably realized that continuing the lawsuits was a futile effort that would only result in decreasing the balance in their bank account while increasing that of their lawyers.”

Sarah Buzzard, a lawyer for Hodges & Coxe law firm in Wilmington representing the plaintiffs, said Tuesday, May 27, they opted for dismissal and are refiling the lawsuit. She said they are refilling because procedural rulings had negatively affected their clients.

In the news release, Saunders said he is optimistic the dismissals will “accelerate the steady increase in property values already being realized throughout The Coastal Companies’ communities and Brunswick County.”

“These lawsuits were counterproductive not only for us, but for the property owners, including the vast majority of property owners who chose not to sue,” Saunders said. “The plaintiffs’ lawyers eagerly promoted negative publicity about the communities without consideration of the general economic collapse and how reckless lawsuits could stifle a recovery. We look forward to spending our resources in more productive ways that will benefit all owners and many hard-working Brunswick County citizens.”

Saunders said development by The Coastal Companies continues.

“Notwithstanding the severe winter and rainy spring, numerous homes and roads are under construction in our communities,” he said. “We are building infrastructure and looking forward to a busy summer.”

 

Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.