Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Who owns Warm Springs Ranch?

Parties ready for trial in ownership dispute

Express Staff Writer

After years of accusations and counter-claims, court dates and postponements, a jury trial of the lawsuit pertaining to ownership of the Warm Springs Ranch property in Ketchum appears to be ready to go.

Fifth District Judge Robert Elgee presided over more than a dozen pretrial motions Thursday, Jan. 5, with parties Steve Roth, owner of Sun Valley Ventures, and George Tischer, his previous partner, battling for control of Warm Springs Ranch.

The judge rejected a motion for summary judgement, which would have dismissed the case, and ruled against the matter being a punitive-damages case.

"I do not see evidence rising to that level," the judge said. "To me, this is a legal shoving match of the first order."

Keith Roark, attorney for Roth, expressed satisfaction with Thursday's proceedings.

"We're extremely pleased," Roark said Tuesday. "George Tischer has made a career out of litigation. This is just part and parcel of that. Steve Roth has done everything in his power to bend over backward to be fair to George Tischer. We think the jury will understand (that)."

Tischer maintains that he has been treated unfairly from the start, alleging that Roth breached a settlement agreement and formed a "sham" limited liability company to sideline him.

"Roth and (his attorney Keith) Roark tried to hoodwink the judge into believing, even though he and I were partners and I brought him in initially, that he could squeeze me out of the project and offer to pay me $100,000 for my approximate one-third interest in it," Tischer said in a phone interview Monday, Jan. 9. "(Roth wanted to) leave himself with 100 percent interest with profits for him of $100 million. I think the judge and the jury are too smart to buy into that argument."

Tischer said he remains confident about the case.

"I think we anticipated what would occur," he said about the pretrial motions. "We still have a very solid case. Roth's liability for damages ... far exceed what he paid for the property. This litigation can go on for years."

The jury trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 23.

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