Buyers can sue for Trump deposits

Financing woes for tower pushes completion past contract deadline.

By James Thorner, Times Staff Writer
Published March 15, 2007

The developers of Trump Tower Tampa learned Wednesday that they can't stop buyers from suing to get back deposits on the much-delayed condo high-rise.

SimDag LLC and Mirabilis Ventures Inc. had asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit from two buyers in the Florida Panhandle who wanted a refund on $296,400 they put down on a 38th-story condo.

The contract promised "substantial completion" of the condo by December 2008, but included a waiver that shielded developers from blame if they missed that deadline. In a ruling against developers, Circuit Court Judge James Barton suggested buyers have legal options without waiting for January 2009.

For Tom Long, the attorney arguing against Trump Tower, the ruling has significance beyond his clients. "I think this now, frankly, opens the floodgates to others to demand their money back," Long said. "It's a three-year project and they're at ground zero."

Leslie Schultz-Kin, who represented the developers in court, downplayed the ruling's importance. "This is the first step in many battles," Schultz-Kin said. "A contract's a contract, and these plaintiffs are big boys. They're investors."

The $300-million, 52-story high-rise was launched with fanfare in February 2005, but it couldn't find financing in the housing downturn. New York tycoon Donald Trump is licensing his name to the project for a cut of the profits.

Long said developers, more than $3-million behind in paying contractors, may lack the money to come up with refunds.

James Thorner can be reached at thorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.