PCMR v. Talisker: judge rules crucial 2012 letter will remain sealed
The 3rd District Court judge presiding over the lawsuit between Park City Mountain Resort and Talisker Land Holdings, LLC on Friday ruled that a February 2012 letter between top-ranking figures at the two firms will remain sealed.
The seven-page ruling from 3rd District Court Judge Ryan Harris sided with Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, which had argued the letter should not be made public. PCMR had wanted the letter released.
In his ruling, Harris said the letter "does reveal the contents of settlement negotiations, and is classified as ‘protected’" under state rules. The Feb. 16, 2012 letter was from Jack Bistricer, who leads Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, to John Cumming, the CEO of PCMR parent Powdr Corp. The letter dealt with the prospects of a new lease for PCMR. The resort leases much of its terrain from Talisker Land Holdings, LLC. PCMR filed the lawsuit later in 2012 after a dispute about whether the leases had been renewed.
Harris said he is convinced that the "letter actually does ‘reveal the contents of settlement negotiations.’" Although the lawsuit had not been filed yet, the judge said, "the parties’ previous communications regarding the validity of the lease demonstrates that there was a dispute between the parties at that time."
"In fact, when Mr. Bistricer sent the February 16, 2012 letter, the parties had already held meetings attempting to resolve the dispute. Therefore, Mr. Bistricer’s letter, which outlined Defendants’ position with regard to the attempted settlement negotiations, was prepared during settlement negotiations notwithstanding that Plaintiffs had yet to institute" the lawsuit," the judge said.
He said the sides were negotiating a resolution in January of 2012.
"Clearly, the parties were engaged in negotiation aimed at resolving the dispute between them regarding the leases as early as January 2012. High-level meetings were occurring, and both sides agreed as of January 16 that these high-level meetings would be considered settlement discussions. The February 16 letter was clearly an off-shoot of these high-level meetings," the judge said.
The letter is written on Talisker letterhead. The version that is available publicly is almost completely redacted. One complete sentence was not redacted when the letter was filed with the court. The sentence reads: "Please indicate your agreement to the terms set out in this letter on or before February 24, 2012, by signing where indicated below."
John Lund, the lead attorney for the Talisker Land Holdings, LLC side, said in a prepared statement he is pleased with the ruling.
"As we have said before, we object to the selective disclosure of any communications between the parties that were made in an effort to settle this dispute, because it only makes future efforts to resolve the litigation more challenging," he said. "We think PCMR’s effort to disclose this letter are an indication of their unwillingness to create the environment for confidential discussions to bring closure to this matter and to the community."
In October filings, the two sides made arguments about the letter. The Talisker Land Holdings, LLC filing claimed PCMR’s desire to unseal the letter "can only be part of an effort to litigate their case in the media." The PCMR side had said "the public’s interest in and the public’s right of access to judicial materials favor unsealing the record."
In a prepared statement, PCMR’s lead attorney, Alan Sullivan, said the resort is "disappointed" with the decision.
"We argued the letter should be unsealed because of the public’s interest in this matter and the significance of the case to the Park City community. We respect the Court’s decision on this issue, however, and will of course comply with it," Sullivan said. "This ruling does not directly affect any of the central legal issues in this case. We are prepared to show that PCMR acted responsibly and in good faith and that its right to use the lands at issue has been extended."
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