An Aspen second-home owner whose company is embroiled in a lawsuit by a London fashionista and her sister over a local mansion they tried to rent for more than $300,000 is not liable to the other defendant should the plaintiffs prevail, a judge ruled Friday.
The lawsuit by Mounissa and Nafissa Chodieva alleges that they paid roughly $20,000 a night to rent a 9,331-square-foot Shadow Mountain home for two weeks over the Christmas holidays in 2011.
The sisters, who contend they have only received back their $25,000 security deposit, in February 2012 sued the home’s owner, the BDDC Trust, and Aspen Signature Properties (ASP), a local rental company.
ASP brokered the lease the family signed with the home’s former owner, Little Cloud 3 LLC, to rent the $16 million residence at 24 Little Cloud Lane.
But when the trust bought the residence in November 2011, an ASP representative, Tracy Sutton, allegedly informed the Chodievas’ broker that the trust’s principal, Tom Dundon of Dallas, would not be honoring the lease. The sisters are suing Dundon’s trust for breach of contract and the property company for negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and civil theft.
The property firm then filed a counterclaim against the BDDC Trust, alleging the trust is liable for any potential damages should the sisters prevail.
“Essentially, ASP has alleged that if [it] is found liable to the plaintiffs, then the trust is liable to ASP because Ms. Sutton was acting as the trust’s agent when she sent the ... email” informing the family about Dundon’s stance, says the ruling by Judge Denise Lynch of Pitkin County District Court.
Lynch ruled for the trust, which had argued that it had no legal relationship with ASP.
ASP admitted in court documents that it was not a real estate agent or transaction broker for the trust on the day Sutton emailed the sisters’ representative, Lynch wrote. The judge presumed that ASP did broker the rental agreement between the Chodievas and Little Cloud 3.
“Therefore there could not have been a ... relationship between ASP and the trust as a matter of law,” the ruling says.
Lynch granted the BDDC Trust’s motion for a partial summary judgment, but has yet to rule on a similar motion by ASP against the sisters.
ASP argues that the Chodievas’ claims should be dismissed because the rental agreement Mounissa Chodieva signed contained an exculpatory clause, meaning she released the property firm from liability.
The Chodievas’ attorney, David McConaughy of Aspen, opposing ASP’s motion for summary judgment, wrote that such a clause in Colorado residential leases is unenforceable.
The sisters’ father owns a mining and metal conglomerate in Kazakhstan, and Mounissa Chodieva is the founder of Vault Couture, a business specializing in climate-controlled storage for wardrobes.
Dundon, the owner of an $11 million home in Dallas, in 2006 sold the subprime auto loan company he founded for $636 million.
The trust, in its answer to the lawsuit, denies the allegations and says it offered to honor the lease. Dundon’s attorney, Timothy Gordon of Denver, also wrote that the sisters only paid $240,000 for the rental, an amount his client offered to refund if the family no longer wanted to use the property. Dundon also claims that the Chodievas made conflicting statements about their intent to rent.
The sisters’ and their family eventually rented a Ute Avenue home for their stay.