BOZEMAN – A jury has awarded a developer $3 million in a lawsuit in which he argued the city of Bozeman undermined his plans to purchase and develop land north of the city.
The 12-person jury deliberated for about four hours at the end of a four-day District Court trial before settling on the award for Mike Delaney.
City Attorney Paul Luwe said the judgment would be paid by the Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, an insurance pool for cities and towns in Montana.
The city bought the land for $3 million in 2003.
Delaney, owner of Delaney & Co., filed the lawsuit five years ago, after the city bought 75 acres just north of Interstate 90 and west of North Seventh Avenue, a property known as the Mandeville Farm.
Delaney alleged that the city purchased the property and pursued plans to develop it even though city officials knew Delaney intended to buy and develop the land. He alleged the city was guilty of constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation and interference with business relations.
The court previously ruled that the city was liable for damages, but a jury had to decide how much money Delaney was due for profits lost.
Ten of the 12 jurors agreed with the $3 million judgment.
“We feel that the jury acted fair and reasonable, considering every single fact.” Delaney said after the verdict was read Friday.
He said he would still rather own, develop and manage the property than have the money.
During his closing arguments, Delaney’s attorney, Dave Wagner, said a city consultant had estimated the property could generate anywhere from $3 million to $30 million in profits, depending on how the land is developed.
Wagner also told the jury that the city stole Delaney’s idea to buy the land and develop it into an industrial park.
In closing arguments, the city’s attorney, Allan Baris, said Delaney had no evidence regarding what he had planned to do with the land or how much money he might have lost. He said Delaney’s estimates of lost profits were inflated and based on a project at least seven times larger than anything he had ever done before.
“There is no evidence that Delaney & Co. would have made a profit on this property,” Baris told the jury. “It is total, total speculation.”
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