Tuesday, June 08, 2010, 6/08/2010 11:41:00 AM

Naples, Florida Developer Can Withhold Subpoenaed Documents - For Now

By Todd

Naplesnews.com is on a rare trade secrets case. Luxury, heck all, real estate purchasers in South Florida have had a rough road in the last couple years. Some are fighting mad. Robert Housel is apparently fighting mad. He sued the Bonita Bay Group alleging breach of contract, violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and fraud. It relates to his purchase of a membership in the Naples-based club called Mediterra. Apparently the original deal was that anyone who paid the $186,000 membership deposit would get it back upon demand, no questions asked. And then that arrangement stopped.

So, as litigants routinely do, he issued a subpoena for records. Lots of them. And Bonita Bay Group objected, even though they sold the club to a member-run group after it ran into financial trouble. Housel wants the docuements. Bonita Bay Group says they contain "trade secrets" and need to be treated in the court process as such. “There’s a blank piece of paper marked trade secret,” he said at a court hearing on Monday. “It’s not until I asked for them in my lawsuit that any of these documents became trade secret.”

So Housel asked for a hearing on the matter. At the hearing, Collier Magistrate Jim McGarity said he understood Housel’s frustration with the delays he’s faced in getting the information he’s requested. But, he said, the documents from the new club should fall under the same protective order as the ones coming from the developer.

Mr. McGarity gave the developer until noon on July 16 to produce all of the requested documents, including the ones from the new club. The next step would be for Housel to ask for an internal court review of the documents marked as “trade secrets.” He hopes to get many of them unsealed and made public by the magistrate.

Bonita Bay's attorney explains their concern this way: many of the documents Housel requested from the new club should remain confidential because they contain financial information and information on bidding strategies and techniques used in the sale of the Mediterra club to members. If that kind of information is disclosed it could hurt the developer’s ongoing negotiations to sell three other clubs because it would reveal the “give-and-take” and show how far it’s willing to go to reach a deal.

We'll keep a sunburned eye on this one for you.


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