Attorney calls Hermitage Club chairlift case 'complex'

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HARTFORD, CONN. — A lawsuit concerning the six-person, heated, bubble chairlift at the private ski resort Haystack Mountain was deemed "a complex matter involving very complex legal and factual issues" by an attorney representing Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes and the Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company LLC.

Barnes and HIREHC, who rarely reply to court filings, are asking for an additional 30 days to respond to a lawsuit filed by club members who invested in the lift at the now-foreclosed private ski resort at Haystack Mountain.

"The undersigned's schedule in December 2018 was exceptionally busy," attorney Edward C. Taiman Jr. wrote in a motion to extend time to file responsive pleading. "It included attending both the first court hearing and pretrial settlement conference in the instant matter, as well as tending to other, unrelated matters. Now, with the intervening holidays prior to the Jan. 2, 2019 deadline, the undersigned has had no opportunity to review the merits of the underlying complaint with his clients."

Taiman asked Hartford Superior Court, Civil Division to give him until Feb. 1 to respond to the complaint that alleges the group of members is owed about $9.8 million after his clients defaulted on a loan. He claimed the plaintiffs are "trying to rush this through the court system to the detriment of the defendants." The case, he wrote, was not just a breach of contract issue.

Default judgment orders have become the norm with litigation involving Barnes and the Hermitage as a result of them not appearing in court or responding to motions. On top of the Berkshire Bank foreclosure of the ski resort, golf course and four inns — which prompted Judge John Treadwell in Windham Superior Court, Civil Division to appoint a receiver to preserve the quality of the properties while the process unfolds — there are lawsuits from vendors and club member investors who say they are owed.

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Attorneys for members of the Barnstormer Summit Lift LLC objected to Taiman's motion. They called a Dec. 3 complaint "identical" to one filed Nov. 2.

"As such, any additional time needed to investigate the veracity of the allegations is de minimis," they wrote, meaning too trivial or minor to merit consideration, "particularly after Barnes and HIREHC engaged, through counsel, in proceedings associated with the ongoing prejudgment remedy process concerning identical factual and legal allegations."

The allegations, attorneys for the plaintiffs wrote, concern "an ongoing breach of fiduciary duty, self-dealing, and the potential for irreparable harm from any delay in the instant action due to efforts of a third party to foreclose on collateral securing a loan made by Barnstormer and the refusal by Barnes and HIREHC to defend against such foreclosure efforts. Therefore, time is of the essence and any delay in the proceedings secondary to an extension of the pleading deadline necessarily prejudices the plaintiffs and Barnstormer."

Hearings for this case are scheduled for Jan. 16 and 17 in Connecticut.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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