5F v BGIPOA: It may be wrapped up – then again, maybe not

BGIsles-bridge-4 (1)BY JACK SHORT – The most recent development in the ongoing dispute between the Boca Grande Isles Property Owners’ Association and 5F, the corporation that owns the submerged plats surrounding the Isles, may have signaled the end of the case with a reported contingent settlement.

Charles Ross, esq., a certified circuit civil court mediator, filed a report on February 19 to certify that a mediation conference was held in Ft. Myers, Florida. Though the mediation report states the conference was held Monday, February 2, 2014, it is possible that the date was misreported. February 2 fell on a Sunday in 2014, not a Monday. February 2 fell on a Monday this year, however, and the report was filed only a few weeks ago, on February 19, 2015.

Charles Ross’s office declined to comment on when the meeting actually took place, or to disclose any information about the mediation, such as whether or not it was required by the court or entered into voluntarily by parties involved.

The case is part of a dispute that stretched back several years to Sunset Realty’s sale of plats to the Isles and subsequent sale of submerged plats surrounding the Isles to 5F’s predecessor. The case itself was sparked by BGIPOA’s need to repair a private bridge, the only access by road to the Isles, and a subsequent dispute over their right to do so, given that 5F owns the submerged land that it spans.

In January, both the plaintiff, BGIPOA, and 5F, the defendant, filed a joint motion to the case management plan, and in support of that motion stated, among other things, that both parties were “actively pursuing settlement negotiations.”

The amended case management plan included a March 15, 2015, deadline by which parties had to complete some form of alternative dispute resolution. According to that plan, mediation is mandatory unless the parties agreed to another form of alternative dispute resolution.

That motion to amend was filed with the Lee County court on January 20, 2015, and a notice of mediation was filed the following day that states both parties agreed to the mediation.

The result of the most recent conference with the mediator is given in his report as a “contingent settlement, subject to and contingent upon a final settlement agreement to be concluded by counsel.”

Julius Frager, whom the Beacon consulted for his expertise on mediation, said that the report may be somewhat inconclusive. Frager was a mediator for the federal court in St. Louis and mediated disputes between parties such as the United States Postal Service.

He cautioned that contingent settlements are just that – contingent – and that it’s possible that, during the process of drafting formal language, the tentative agreement may still be disrupted. He explained that sometimes, for example, if nothing has been signed at the time of a tentative agreement, parties involved can experience what he called buyer’s remorse and rescind an informal promise to abide by terms set out therein or that the final language drafted by attorneys may not be satisfactory to all parties.

“It does happen,” he said.

The mediator’s report in this case does not give additional information about the circumstances, formality, or terms of the contingent settlement other than those listed above, and the registered agent for 5F, LLC, Ronald Strich, said he was unable to comment on any developments.