Friday, March 14, 2014

Former aviation company trustees file $7M claim

City Manager Tony O’Rourke 

 For now, officials with the city of Yakima and Yakima County are not sweating a $7 million claim filed for a wrongful eviction by Yakima Air Terminal in March 2010.  

The Langdon Family Revocable Trust, a trustee of the assets for the now-defunct M.A. West Rockies Corp., filed the claim Thursday against the two governmental entities, which co-owned the airport at the time of the lease termination.

City Manager Tony O’Rourke said he’s “not going to lose any sleep” over the claim.

“We know there is some damages involved, but they’re not $7 million,” O’Rourke said Friday.

In its claim, the trust states the $7 million in damages accounts for several wrongful actions by the airport.

The trust also states it could seek triple damages for statutory trespass, or wrongful injury or interference with the M.A. West Rockies property. With those damages, plus attorneys fees and other legal costs, the total amount could be much higher than $7 million.

Aaron Okrent, a Seattle attorney representing the Langdon Family Revocable Trust, could not be reached for comment Friday.

A claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed, but there is a case now pending in Yakima County Superior Court in which a judgment could be issued regarding damages. That one was filed by a creditor.

In December, the state Court of Appeals sent the case back to Yakima County Superior Court after it ruled that the airport improperly evicted M.A. West Rockies Corp.

The appeals court determined that the company, which operated as Noland Decoto Flying Service, paid sufficient rent for airfield access when the airport evicted the company.

The ruling reversed a June 2010 decision by now-retired Superior Court Judge James Lust that affirmed the eviction, which M.A. West Rockies appealed two months later.

The appeals court recommended payment of legal fees and financial losses that resulted from the eviction.

In January, a creditor for M.A. West Rockies filed a $3.4 million claim against the city and county.

The city of Yakima now has sole ownership of the airport, but there is an agreement with Yakima County that both entities would be responsible for paying any potential damages because they co-owned the airport at the time.

Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott said the city and county are working jointly with local attorney Ken Harper on the case.

“The two legal departments will look over the claim and decide a course of action,” he said.

Like O’Rourke, Elliott expressed skepticism about the claim amount.

“I think most rational folks would think that was high,” he said.

O’Rourke was more blunt.

“Anyone can claim anything,” he said. “Show me the business operating losses during that operating period. Then we’ll take it seriously.” 

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