Indies Suites settlement sought

Attorneys for both sides of the Indies Suites dispute met twice this week in effort to try to reach a compromised settlement before the matter returns to court, club member Rod Broome said Wednesday.

‘After the second meeting, it appeared both sides do want to settle and be done with it,’ said Mr. Broome, who had filed another action concerning Indies Suites in Grand Court last month after the Court of Appeal overturned an earlier liquidation order in November.

The matter was to be heard in Grand Court Friday, but as part of this week’s negotiations, both sides have agreed to suspend any other legal action for the period of 21 days, Mr. Broome said.

Attorney Alan Turner, who represents Mr. Broome, confirmed he will attend Grand Court Friday and ask for an adjournment by agreement of both sides.

Mr. Broome said he sat in on the two meetings with the attorneys, along with one other club member.

‘Both sides have been working in good faith,’ he said. ‘I think we’ll get enough of the timeshare owners to accept the settlement.’

Mr. Broome could not comment on the specifics of the settlement, however during Court of Appeal proceedings last November, the amount of US$1.53 million was offered to pay legitimate claims of club members.

That amount is now held in Court.

Indies Suites was substantially damaged by Hurricane Ivan, and turned out to be about 50 per cent under insured.

The property, along with an adjoining unimproved lot, was subsequently sold and transferred to St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine in January 2005, although the more than 400 timeshare owners – known as club members – were not informed of the sale until May.

A petition to Grand Court was later granted for the provisional liquidation of the property, which led to an official liquidation order.

However that order was later overturned by the Court of Appeal after it found that the petitioner – who was Mr. Broome and his wife along with 177 supporting creditors – did not have standing to bring the action because their claims had not been quantified beforehand.

It has been estimated there are more than 450 club members of Indies Suites, but because many of the company’s records were destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, the exact figure is uncertain.

Mr. Broome said he represented a group which had now grown to 240 club members.

One of the issues discussed during the meetings this week was the mechanics of how club members would be paid out of the available funds.

Depending on when they purchased, club members paid varying amounts for their weeks and had varying amounts of time left on their 99-year right-to-use agreements. A formula is necessary to fairly settle with the club members, and Mr. Broome said the Indies Suites side had been co-operative in working to find that formula.

Another issue to be resolved is the payment of legal fees and liquidator’s fees for the work Chris Johnson Associates did before the Court of Appeal decision.

‘Our group understood from the beginning there would liquidator’s fees and legal fees,’ Mr .Broome said. ‘We expected those fees to be paid out of whatever pot we would get.’

The club members now have a decision, Mr. Broome said.

‘We’re waiting for input from our side as to what they’ll accept,’ he said.

Ronnie Foster, an owner of Brac Construction Ltd., which is the sole shareholder of Indies Suites Ltd,, was off the island and unavailable for comment,

However, his representative Diana Cole, who attended the second meeting this week, said she thought the meetings were very positive.

‘We agreed we would all try to be in agreement for a settlement within 21 days,’ she said. ‘I think that’s what everyone wants.’