Delivering a Win for Howard University in Development Dispute
After a six-year dispute, a team of Ballard Spahr litigators scored a significant win for Howard University. In August 2017, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia awarded the University nearly $1.5 million in damages from a developer that failed to complete a mixed-use project on University land.
The dispute centered on a 2010 ground lease and development agreement between the University and Howard Town Center Developer, LLC. The University terminated the ground lease and development agreement due to the developer's failure to honor its contractual obligations and pay ground rent. Claiming the termination as wrongful, the developer brought suit, seeking $22 million in damages and an injunction to prevent the University from proceeding with the project with another developer. The University countersued for the unpaid ground rent of $1,475,000.
An eight-day bench trial was held in the spring of 2017. Judge Howell ruled in the University's favor on all issues and awarded the University damages along with interest and attorney's fees.
The court held that the developer "acted in bad faith," with a "my way or the highway approach." The court found "the University did not buckle to the pressure applied by the Developer to accede to further concessions, under the threat of litigation; the Developer's bullying tactics did not work."