Taft Earns Ohio Supreme Court Victory for Commercial Real Estate Developer

In a decision announced on April 23, 2024, the Supreme Court of Ohio determined the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (the Port) is required to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in “prejudgment interest” to Taft’s client, commercial real estate developer Vandercar, L.L.C.

In 2021, the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court held that the Port breached its contract with Vandercar regarding redevelopment of the Millennium Hotel site in Cincinnati and awarded Vandercar $5 million in damages. As part of the legal dispute, Vandercar sought prejudgment interest as it awaited payment from the Port. The trial court and the First District Court of Appeals ruled that the Port was immune from prejudgment interest.

Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Patrick Fischer stated that the law that created the Port states that “no port authority is immune from liability” derived from exercising its duties. He also wrote that the state law requiring a losing party to pay prejudgment interest for breach of contract provides no exception for a port authority. The Court, therefore, reversed the First District’s decision and remanded the case to the trial court to assess prejudgment interest.

The Port had asked the Court to apply the 1988 Supreme Court decision in Beifuss v. Westerville Bd. Of Edn. In that case, the Court held that a board of education was immune from prejudgment interest on an award of back pay to a school employee. The Port argued that Port authorities should be treated the same under Beifuss as school boards and exempt from paying interest. The Court rejected the Port’s argument and ruled that the Court should return to its position before the Beifuss decision and consider government bodies the same as private parties in civil lawsuits unless a state law explicitly provides the government body with an exemption.

The Taft team was led by partner Beth Bryan, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, and included Cincinnati litigation partners Stuart Dornette and Russell Sayre. Bryan brings a wealth of successful trial and appellate experience on behalf of our clients in state and federal courts, both within and outside Ohio. She focuses specifically on business, commercial, fiduciary, and election litigation. Dornette has substantial personal experience in complex financial, corporate, and securities issues in state and federal courts. Sayre represents businesses, corporations, and individuals in commercial litigation and arbitration, with a focus on the financial services industry.

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