Curran & Briggs still fighting for compensation five years after failed project

Colin MacLean
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SUMMERSIDE - A bitter legal battle over a failed Charlottetown real estate development resumed Tuesday, beginning a new chapter for a frustrated Summerside company.

Curran & Briggs.

Curran & Briggs Ltd., the primary creditor in the failed Royalty Heights Subdivision development, had its case heard at the Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal, the latest chapter in a long legal fight. At the conclusion of Tuesday's hearing, the court reserved its decision.

Located off Charlottetown's Royalty Road, the development has since been purchased by another developer and renamed Windsor Park. The local company says it is owed more than $520,000 by the now defunct former developer, 100875 P.E.I. Inc., owned by British Columbian businessman Steve Uppal.

Rick Kennedy, president of Curran & Briggs, said his legal bills related to the failed venture are into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He's seeking a total reimbursement of $820,000.

"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Kennedy said of the long and drawn out process.

This case has consumed the businessman's attention for years and the whole situation is beyond frustrating, he said.

People often ask why he doesn't just drop the whole thing, give up, absorb his losses and move on.

"There's times when the blood pressure gets up, and (you wonder), are you at a point of no return? Or should you be throwing the towel in? I guess we've determined that we won't be throwing any towel in - we hope that right will come through in the end and that justice will be done," he said.

Royalty Heights was supposed to be a 524-unit residential subdivision with an estimated overall cost of $170 million.

But it was not to be.

According to court documents obtain by the Journal Pioneer, Kennedy's company was contracted by 100875 P.E.I. Inc. on March 27, 2008, to build sewer, water and electrical connections, curbs and storm sewers in the development.

Curran & Briggs was supposed to be paid a little more than $2.3 million for the service and work began in early May, 2008.

Just three months later, in August of that year, the company had issued invoices for a little less than $1.2 million but had been paid less than half that amount. Hundreds of thousands of dollars more worth of work had been done, but no invoices had been issued at that time.

By late November of 2008, the Bank of Montreal, which was the mortgage holder on the development, was trying to refinance its deal with 100875 P.E.I. Inc. so Curran & Briggs and other creditors could be paid and work could continue.

Among these negotiations between the developer and the bank, Curran & Briggs was also talking to the developer, trying to stave off the implementation of what is known as a mechanics lien against the project.

These liens are meant to protect companies that do work on credit or before full payment is received for a service.

In the interest of helping to ensure 100875 P.E.I. could refinance its deal with BMO, Curran & Briggs agreed to hold off on implementing its lien for a set period of time and a deadline of Dec. 19, 2008, was struck.

Time passed and the developer tried once more, on Dec. 18, to extend the deadline it had struck with Curran & Briggs, but the company declined to do so without assurances.

The deadline came and went and the company filed its lien.

100875 P.E.I. Inc. continued refinancing negotiations with BMO until Feb. 16, 2009, at which point the bank declined to provide any further funding to the project. 100875 P.E.I. Inc. went bankrupt in 2010.

With its mechanic's lien in place, Curran & Briggs was entitled to be paid first among the various others that were owed money from the sale of the developer's assets.

That sale raised roughly $1.4 million, which is being held by an appointed receiver, PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc.

The payment of the creditors has been held up by various legal challenges and procedural delays for years. The most recent being from late 2013 when another company, seeking to be included in the proceedings as a creditor, came forward.

The Bank of Montreal is also challenging the validity and priority of the Curran & Briggs mechanics lien - insisting that its mortgage on the development should take payment priority over the work for which Kennedy's company was never paid.

A hearing on the question of Curran & Briggs' lien priority began in Charlottetown on Tuesday, March 4.

However, at this point, Kennedy has no idea when or even if he'll see any of the money his company is owed.

But he has faith, he said.

"I don't think we did anything wrong. I think we did most everything that we could and that was asked of us to make this project fly," said Kennedy.

"We did the work. We did good work. The owner even admitted that the work was good and that we deserved to get paid. And I'm not sure we deserve this five-year legal fight.

"So I guess I'm just fighting for what I think is right and due," he said.

The Bank of Montreal was contacted for comment regarding this story but declined, citing its status as being before the courts.

Colin.MacLean@JournalPioneer.com

Organizations: 100875 P.E.I., Prince Edward Island Court, Bank of Montreal BMO Journal Pioneer P.E.I. PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc.

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Royalty Road, Windsor Park

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