(Source: By Josh Salman, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.) – MANATEE — An attorney representing Robert Messick and his prominent Sarasota law firm battling a $4.6 million FDIC lawsuit hopes to have the case resolved before a trial next year.
Both sides have spent the past several months organizing legal depositions, documents and other evidence they believe may sway the case, which is scheduled to go before a jury next year in a U.S. District Court in Tampa.
The December lawsuit charges Messick and his law firm Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen and Ginsburg with malpractice for their involvement in a Manatee County housing development planned in 2006.
Messick represented the now defunct First Priority Bank in Bradenton in the deal along with project organizer Mark Brivik, an embattled Sarasota developer who had been arrested for defrauding investors but never faced formal charges.
The FDIC now wants $4.6 million in damages for what regulators see as the primary conflict of interest that ultimately spurred the bank’s bad loan.
“We believe the case is completely meritless, and we will take whatever legal steps we can to dismiss the claim,” said Dennis Waggoner, a Tampa attorney representing Messick’s firm. “The
law firm is and will continue to defend itself from this claim because we believe it’s extremely unfounded.”
Waggoner said during a phone interview Tuesday he believes the case may never make it to trial, which has been pencilled in for early 2013, he said.
The Coral Gables law firm representing the FDIC sees it differently.
Their suit alleges that Brivik, along with five other investors, tried to buy five parcels of land in Manatee to develop a 97-lot residential subdivision dubbed the River Meadows Development.
Four of the parcels went according to plans, but the owners of a final 25-acre plot wouldn’t agree to sell, only allowing Brivik a partial right of first refusal on the property, court records show.
Banking regulators believe Messick never disclosed that key point of information to First Priority Bank, which approved a $5.3 million loan on the project.
Messick was involved in everything from property negotiations to operating agreements for the borrower and purchase-and-sale agreements, records show.
FDIC officials decline to comment on the litigation, and Alfonso Perez, the lead case attorney for the Coral Gables law group representing the government agency, cited strict orders to keep quiet.
“Had Messick informed the bank about these material facts, the bank would have never made the River Meadows loan,” the lawsuit states.
The Florida Office of Financial Regulation shut down First Priority in August 2008. At the time, the bank had $43 million in non-performing loans, with just $1.5 million in operating capital.
A previous suit against Icard by other investors in the development resulted in a settlement.
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman.
©2012 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)
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