|photo credit: PCMR|
It appears that reports that Park City Mountain Resort and Talisiker (owner of the nearby Canyons resort) were close to settling a lease dispute may be premature. Many readers may recall that back in March Ski, Esq. discussed in several media outlets the lawsuit in which PCMR resort alleges that although it did not enter into a formal lease extension for tracts of land owned by Talisker and on which PCMR operates, the parties’ actions demonstrate that PCMR exercised its right to extend the leases until 2051.
In the last week, PCMR has filed 2 new sets of motions. Details after the jump.
To summarize the case history to date, on March 9 PCMR filed a complaint against Talisker. On April 17 Talisker filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Almost all litigation initially begins exactly with this choreographed dance: complaint followed by a motion to dismiss the complaint. Utah courts will generally grant a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff has no right to relief "under any state of facts which could be proved in support of its claims." Colman v. Utah State Land Board, 795 P.2d 622, 624 (Utah 1990). In other words, if what the plaintiff has alleged does not constitute the elements of a cause of action it filed in its complaint, a court will dismiss that cause of action. If all the causes of action are dismissed then so is the lawsuit.
Jumping forward a month, on May 15 PCMR filed a motion opposing Talisker's motion to dismiss. In its motion PCMR set forth some intriguing new facts. PCMR alleges that one of Talisker's related entities (United Park City Mines, owner of one of the tracts that is the subject of the lawsuit) obtained a reduction in its property taxes by arguing that the property was burdened by the PCMR lease until 2051. PCMR's motion quotes several Talisker-UPCM representatives who appeared before the Utah State Property Tax Division, including its appraiser, a BYU law professor serving as a law expert and Talisker-UPCM's lawyers, all of whom stated that the leases ran until 2051. Ski, Esq. does not have a full transcript of that hearing, but if PCMR's quotes are reflective of the totality of the record, the quotes could spell trouble for Talisker.
At the heart of several of PCMR's causes of action is the assertion that Talisker made representations that the leases would be extended or were in place until 2051. As such, PCMR argues Talisker should be estopped from arguing the lease expired in 2011. (Ski, Esq. Tip: estoppel, "equitable estoppel" in this case, is a legal doctrine that bars a person from adopting a position in court that contradicts his or her past statements or actions when that contradictory stance would be unfair to another person who relied on the original position.) The statements before the Tax Division would seem to support PCMR's estoppel argument.
In its most recent May 21 set of pleadings PCMR filed a motion to amend its complaint to include two antitrust causes of action. Generally, courts are fairly permissive of permitting plaintiffs to amend their complaint at least once, so it is likely the judge will allow PCMR to include these new antitrust allegations. According to a statement on PCMR's website, Talisker has:
"unlawfully attempted to shut down Park City Mountain resort or to increase dramatically the Resort’s cost of operations, thereby disabling it as a competitor. Plaintiffs allege that defendants’ objective has been to obtain ownership and control of Park City Mountain Resort, thereby monopolizing or attempting to monopolize the relevant markets for skiing and snowboarding."
Antitrust laws are designed to regulate trade, in part, by preventing unlawful restraints, price-fixing, and monopolies. In other words they serve to promote competition. PCMR is alleging that Talisker's actions were motivated by a desire to drive PCMR out of business. Doing so would remove a competitor and allow Talisker to purchase the land and create a partial monopoly. Of course, as Talisker will almost certainly point out, there are 11 ski resorts in the greater Salt Lake City area. Simply removing PCMR would not create an absolute monopoly.
As summer kicks off this weekend, one thing is certain - many folks in the Salt Lake area already have their eyes squarely fixed on next winter wondering what will become of PCMR.