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Four Seasons lawsuit winding down

NWS Construction Day2 PU 4-16-08
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Dozens of attorneys had so much fun in this summer’s Four Seasons trial that they’ll be having what can only be described as a family reunion in October.

In the trial, so many attorneys introduced so much evidence that District Judge Fred Gannett’s shiny new courtroom wasn’t a big enough tent for this circus.

So, the circus paraded up the street to a former karate studio.



The official trial ended last week, but they’ll get together again in October and again later in the year for more chances to persuade Gannett to see things their way.

During the summer in the former karate studio, no one wore suits or ties. Gannett was usually resplendent in slacks and golf shirts. He’s back in the black judicial robe and home in his regular courtroom.



As the main trial wound down, Gannett made a couple of observations, including:

• On slow days, the combatants spent between $14,000 and $20,000 per day on legal fees.

• On a big day, the legal meter ran at about $80,000 per day in billable hours.



• Attorneys were in town from Denver, Chicago and Salt Lake City. Experts came from all over the country to lend expertise.

‘High art’

Gannett is a former deputy sheriff in Pitkin County and a prosecutor and defense attorney who both defended and prosecuted Hunter S. Thompson and ruled there was enough evidence to send Kobe Bryant to trial.

Gannett enjoys the law, admires a thing done well and had a great summer being in the middle of all this.

“It’s wonderful to see the craft practiced at such a high art,” Gannett said.

Attorneys had high praise for Gannett.

“It has been a very long and difficult case,” said Barclay’s lead attorney Steven Stein. “Judge Gannett has done a fantastic job.”

Our story so far

Like most civil lawsuits, this one’s about the money. Layton Construction said it didn’t get paid for helping build the Four Seasons. It filed a $27 million lawsuit against Barclays Capital.

Barclays countersued Layton for about five times that amount, saying Layton caused all kinds of delays and cost Barclays an impressive pile of money.

Gannett whittled the number of attorneys down from more than 70 to around two dozen.

There’s no jury. Gannett will decide who wins and who loses.

Barclays acquired Lehman Brothers during the economic unpleasantness of 2008. Barclays acquired the Four Seasons pretty much the same way.

Definitions

The last time we visited the Four Seasons Fandango there were 14 attorneys in the room.

Stein was grilling expert witness Frederick Poppe over where some of the money went, who gave it permission to leave and how it got there.

They were scouring miles and piles of legal documents, wrangling over whether the documents say what they want them to say, each trying to get the other to stumble into some rhetorical trap.

Gannett was paying attention. He has to decide who gets what and who pays it.

So was Layton’s attorney, Ty Holt. He objected to all sorts of stuff he found objectionable.

And we learned a new word, “deflectometer.” The definition seemed really important. So we looked it up: “An instrument for measuring the degree to which a transverse load causes a beam or other structure to bend.”

Construction law is the rules by which stuff gets done in the construction industry. It governs – or is supposed to – financial institutions like Barclays, construction companies like Layton, workers, surveyors, architects, engineers, planners and dozens of other occupations.

Sometimes everyone disagrees, and people like Gannett get involved.

“Construction law is a specialty, very focused on the issues of that industry,” Gannett said.

Four huge hotels were built in Vail over the past few years, and all four will wind up in court – Gannett’s court. He smiles as he points this out.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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