Cedars West of Longboat Inc. has exclusive rights to two hard-surface tennis courts located across the street from the condominium, 5655 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Manatee County Judge Janette Dunnigan ruled last week after a three-day trial. On May 26, Dunnigan also ruled that the condominium association must replace the asphalt courts within 12 months.
“The 56 Cedars West owners are very pleased that they have exclusive use of the courts that they have had since 1981,” said Andre Perron, of the Bradenton law firm Ozark, Perron & Nelson, which represents Cedars West.
The trial stemmed from a lawsuit filed last October by Cedars West against Cedars Tennis and Fitness Club Inc. The lawsuit stated that the tennis club took over the courts “by strong arm without the consent of Cedars West” when its president, Randall Langley, delivered a letter in August to Cedars West that stated Cedars West residents no longer had access to the courts. In the letter, Langley cited a 1981 agreement between Cedars West and Hunt Building Corp., the predecessor in title to Cedars Tennis and Fitness Club, which granted Cedars West exclusive access to the courts with the stipulation that failure to maintain and repair the courts, nets and fencing would amount to “constructive abandonment.”
The lawsuit stated that shortly after Langley purchased the tennis club in May 2008, he “demanded of Cedars West management that (Cedars Tennis and Fitness Club) have joint use of the tennis courts with Cedars West, as (Cedars Tennis and Fitness Club) had need for hard-surface courts.”
According to both Perron and David Siegal, of the New York-based Siegal Law Offices, which represents Cedars Tennis and Fitness Club, Dunnigan ruled that the wording of the agreement that Cedars West would maintain the courts in a condition “substantially equivalent” to their condition in 1981 was ambiguous. Siegal argued that the words “substantially equivalent” were defined in the Merriam-Webster
Dictionary as “largely equal in value.” But, according to the ruling, Cedars West should have had advance notice before access to the courts was blocked.
“She (Judge Dunnigan), in our view, added an element of notice and a right to cure,” Siegal said.
Perron said that the condo association plans to replace the asphalt.
“The owners have enjoyed these courts for many years, and it is their intent to maintain them,” he said.
Siegal said that Cedars Tennis and Fitness Club plans to appeal the decision. But he also said that Langley’s original offer, in which Langley would replace the courts and pay for their maintenance in exchange for sharing the courts, is still on the table.
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