An Aspen judge is expected to rule soon on whether a local homeowner is owed damages from a California winery that rented his residence in 2012, or if the man overcharged the business through an allegedly undisclosed addition to the rental agreement.
Larry Saliterman and his 603 Garmisch LLC sued Jordan Vineyard and Winery in January, contending they owe more than $10,000 for damaging his South Garmisch Street home during the 2012 Food & Wine Classic event.
The winery rented Saliterman’s five-bedroom, 5,712-square-foot home from June 13-16, according to the lawsuit. The company paid $21,000 for the rental, including a $6,000 security deposit that Saliterman has retained.
The parties left “wine stains all over on the carpet,” the suit says, and their use of the kitchen was so extensive that it damaged the exhaust fans and left grease stains on the home’s wood floors, the suit says.
Among the other damages alleged was a “mild carpet burn” in one of the basement bedrooms, Saliterman testified during Tuesday’s one-day trial.
He told Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely of Pitkin County Court that a joint was found in the room.
“The bud burned that hole in the carpet,” said Saliterman, who represented himself.
But Chris Avery, Jordan Vineyard’s national sales director, testified that the only person seen smoking marijuana during the winery’s two parties at Saliterman’s home was Saliterman himself.
Avery said he and fellow Jordan employees were shocked by Saliterman’s monetary demands after Food and Wine.
“We said he could keep the $6,000 security deposit,” he said as he was questioned by the winery’s attorney, Michael Smith of Denver. “We thought $6,000 was incredibly generous.”
Saliterman, who described himself in court as a real estate property manager and developer, on Aug. 9 filed an amended lawsuit against Jordan Vineyard. He was originally seeking $10,500. He now seeks $15,000 — the maximum allowed in the county court jurisdiction.
The increased amount is because Jordan Vineyard — which was celebrating its 40th anniversary — agreed that attendance at the parties held at the home would not exceed 35 people, Saliterman’s amended lawsuit says.
The amended rental agreement says Jordan Vineyard is on the hook for an additional $100 per guest over the 35 people allowed.
“On three different occasions, the defendants conducted events/parties at the subject property at which the number of visitors in attendance was at least 60 people,” a Saliterman court filing says. “Such occurrences entitle the plaintiffs to additional damages in the amount of at least $7,500.”
Saliterman said he wanted only $15,000, as opposed to the $18,000 or so he says he’s owed, in order to keep it in county court.
Avery maintained that only two events were held at the home.
More importantly, he said Saliterman never highlighted the new condition in the amended lease agreement.
Saliterman’s own trial exhibits show both the original rental agreement that Avery signed and the amended lease signed by both Avery and Saliterman.
Under the original “use of premise” clause, the second sentence merely mentions that the winery must pay an additional $500 per inhabitant per night.
In the amended lease, that sentence is followed by this: “Entertaining, parties or any type of gathering of more than 35 people is prohibited. Renter shall pay owner an additional $100 per guests [sic] visiting for whatever reasons in a total of over 35 people.”
Avery testified that Saliterman never told him about the new condition when he signed the final rental agreement.
Smith, the winery’s attorney, told Fernandez-Ely that Saliterman’s failure to direct his client to that change in the lease met “the elements of fraud.”
Avery said he and Saliterman had agreed before the summer of 2012 that the parties would exceed 35 people.
And Avery testified that, had he known about Saliterman’s lease amendment, he would have “absolutely not agreed” to rent the home.
“The cost would’ve been egregious, and we would’ve done the parties elsewhere,” Avery said. “We would not have signed the contract if [Saliterman] had fully disclosed the details of the contract.
“His emails didn’t disclose that Larry had changed the contract.”
Saliterman listed other damages that Jordan Vineyard allegedly incurred, but the business maintains that the $6,000 security deposit is more than sufficient to cover those.
Avery said his staff also scrubbed the place thoroughly before they left, and Smith said it’s unclear whether some of the damages Saliterman is claiming actually happened during his client’s rental or before.
Fernandez-Ely said Tuesday that she would issue a written ruling within two weeks.