The 3rd District Court judge presiding over the lawsuit between Park City Mountain Resort and a firm under the Talisker Corporation umbrella on Tuesday ruled that PCMR does not need to turn over a series of emails sought by the Talisker Corporation side.
In a two-page statement issued midmorning, Judge Ryan Harris said the emails are protected under attorney-client privilege, a legal doctrine that holds that communications between an attorney and a client are not subject to release.
The Talisker Corporation side last Friday had sought the emails, arguing that they could show that there was a deliberate attempt by PCMR to commit fraud. Attorneys for Talisker Corporation had argued that there is an exception to attorney-client privilege when information involves the possibility of a crime being committed.
Harris last Friday requested the emails be turned over to him for review. In the statement, Harris said he "believes that all of the emails are covered by the attorney-client privilege and that none of the emails fall within the so-called 'crime-fraud exception' to the attorney-client privilege."
"Stated another way, the content of the emails is not indicative of any intent on the part of the Park City Parties to seek or obtain legal advice" that would enable or aid in criminal activity or fraud, Harris said in the statement.
The emails were sent in 2011 as PCMR was attempting to renew the lease of much of its terrain, which is under the control of the Talisker Corporation firm. The lawsuit, filed by the PCMR side, centers on whether the lease was renewed.
In a prepared statement, PCMR President and General Manager Jenni Smith said she is "pleased with the Court's decision."
"In court, we will show that PCMR acted responsibly and in good faith and that the agreements extending our use of the leased land are valid. We have always preferred a fair resolution between the parties instead of a court fight, but Vail and Talisker have repeatedly rejected our more than reasonable offers and countered with outrageous demands," Smith said.
Vail Resorts is overseeing the Talisker Corporation's side of the lawsuit as part of a long-term agreement to operate Canyons Resort. The agreement could be extended to include the terrain at PCMR depending on the outcome of the lawsuit.
In an interview, John Lund, the lead attorney for Talisker Corporation, said he will continue to investigate the 2011 letter that PCMR believed was its renewal of the lease. He said the emails were sought as potentially further evidence that the PCMR side backdated the letter.
"We have a clear case that they deliberately backdated the letter . . . and have admitted as much," Lund said.
He said the judge's ruling on Tuesday "doesn't affect our position."
The judge issued the ruling at the start of a critical time in the case when depositions are scheduled to start. Smith's deposition, which will be the first in the case, is set for Wednesday.
Harris, meanwhile, issued a second statement on Tuesday that said the Talisker Corporation side has shown evidence that PCMR "may have attempted to commit fraud by creating and executing on May 2, 2011 a letter bearing the date of April 30, 2011 purporting to confirm that their leases have been extended . . . "
"Plaintiffs have not, at this time, met their burden to rebut the evidence of the Alleged Fraud," the order says.